03/04/2015 11:41AM

Jockeys' Guild advises against signing Parx waiver


Representatives of the Jockeys’ Guild met on Tuesday with riders at Parx racetrack to stress that the jockeys should not sign a waiver sought by the track’s management as a condition of being covered for accident insurance, according to Guild officials.

Mindy Coleman, the Guild’s legal counsel, said the organization is preparing a proposal to present to Parx management that would remove the requirement to sign the waiver, which states that jockeys riding at the track are “fully aware” of the risks of riding horses and “knowingly assume” them. Coleman told the riders at Parx to refrain from signing anything until the situation is ironed out, she said.

Last weekend, Parx distributed the waiver and a letter to jockeys stating that the track’s current insurance policy would be “discontinued” as of March 18, and that no jockeys would be covered under the new policy that goes into effect March 19 unless they had signed the waiver. Parx officials did not immediately respond to phone calls Wednesday.

The dispute between Parx and riders goes back to November, when the track first distributed a waiver to riders and told them that their signature was required in order to ride at the track. After Guild officials and a non-Guild-aligned group of jockeys strongly objected, Parx backed off the threat.

The new waiver states that jockeys would not be covered under the new insurance policy if they do not sign the document, but it implies that riders still would be allowed to ride – but at the risk of being ineligible for the benefits of the new insurance policy.

Coleman said the Guild likely will ask Parx management to rescind the requirement to sign the waiver, and she stressed that the issue affects all jockeys at the track, regardless of whether they are Guild members. Some jockeys at Parx have declined to join the Guild and have set up their own organization.

“This is not a Guild issue, this is not a non-Guild issue,” Coleman said. “This is a Parx jockey issue. This is a jockey issue for every rider in the country.”

Parx is the first racetrack known to distribute a waiver seeking indemnification from liability for rider accidents. The track, which operates the largest casino in the Philadelphia area, lost an $8 million judgment last year in a jury trial over the death of an exercise rider at the track in 2008. Parx has appealed the ruling.