03/11/2015 1:45PM

Parx insurance dispute may shut down live racing

Barbara D. Livingston
Jockeys at Parx refuse to sign a document indemnifying the track from liability for injuries sustaining while riding at the suburban Philadelphia track.

Jockeys at Parx Racing in suburban Philadelphia continue to reject efforts by management to pin eligibility for the track’s insurance policy to language indemnifying the track from liability for accidents, a dispute that could threaten live racing at Parx as of next weekend.

Riders have been told that they must sign a document containing the indemnification language by Thursday in order to be eligible for an insurance policy that goes into effect March 19. The first live racing date at Parx after the March 19 deadline is Saturday, March 21.

Jockeys have steadfastly refused to sign the document, according to riders at the track and their legal counsels. Mindy Coleman, the legal counsel for the Jockeys’ Guild, has said that the guild has advised riders to refuse to sign any document indemnifying the track from liability.

“It is obviously up to the rider’s discretion whether or not to ride,” Coleman said on Wednesday. “But we would never recommend for anyone to ride without being covered by an ontrack injury policy.”

Last Friday, the Jockeys’ Guild sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Commission asking the commission to intervene in the dispute by issuing a cease-and-desist order enjoining Parx from requiring the waiver. The commission has not yet responded to the request, Coleman said.

Officials for Parx did not return a phone call Wednesday.

Tony Black, a jockey at Parx, said on Tuesday that management has not responded to the riders’ concerns about the indemnification language.

“They’re not budging,” Black said.

Racing officials have said that a waiver indemnifying the track against damages is highly unusual and unprecedented at tracks that are not located in states in which riders are covered under state workers’ compensation programs. Parx issued a waiver to riders late last year, shortly after losing a jury-trial court judgment awarding $7.8 million to the family of an exercise rider who was killed in 2010 after a horse he was riding was spooked by chickens on the backstretch.

The initial waiver was not tied to insurance coverage. In February, Parx redistributed the waiver and tied it to eligibility for the new insurance policy, which provides $1 million in medical coverage and a $200,000 payment for death or disability, a standard ontrack accident policy for U.S. tracks.