Jury orders Parx to pay $7.8 million for jockey's dragging death

Posted: April 11, 2014

AJURY HAS awarded nearly $7.8 million to the family of a jockey killed at Parx Racing after a racehorse - spooked by roaming chickens - threw, dragged and kicked him.

Mario Calderon, 55, of Croydon, Bucks County, died after suffering 11 broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage in the May 2010 melee at the racetrack formerly known as Philadelphia Park, his attorney, Michael A. Trunk, said.

A Philadelphia Common Pleas jury deliberated about six hours Wednesday before announcing its verdict, which included $5 million in punitive damages. A Parx spokeswoman couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit claimed that Parx created an unsafe work environment by letting chickens roam free on the racetrack, even though a jockey previously had been injured when a chicken frightened his horse. The chickens had been brought there many years earlier by horse owners and trainers.

Calderon was exercising a horse named Cassidy Blue near the track's outer rail when a chicken spread its wings and moved suddenly as the horse approached. Although the horse bucked and threw Calderon, the jockey's foot got stuck in a stirrup. Calderon then was dragged upside down, while the horse repeatedly kicked him in the chest, for about 40 seconds, according to the lawsuit.

"The jury forced Parx to do what Parx refused to do on its own: take responsibility for the tragic and very preventable death of a longtime jockey and loving husband and father," Trunk said. "I'm hopeful that Parx will now get the message that the safety of jockeys and others on its premises is paramount to everything else, including profits from gambling."

Calderon, a married father of two, had been a jockey for more than 30 years.

On Twitter: @DanaDiFilippo

Blog: phillyconfidential.com

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