09/19/2003 11:00PM

Pincay to sue over treatment after accident, says his lawyer


Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. will file a lawsuit early this week in California state Superior Court in Los Angeles alleging that negligent care in the aftermath of an accident at Santa Anita on March 1 forced him to retire prematurely from riding, according to his attorney, Neil Papiano.

Papiano said that Santa Anita, an ambulance service used by the track, a physician employed by the track, and the physician's assistant all are named in the suit.

Pincay, 56, is the world's winningest rider with 9,530 victories. He announced his retirement in April, seven weeks after being injured in an accident on Santa Anita's hillside turf course on March 1.

According to Papiano, mistakes were made at several junctures in Pincay's care immediately following the accident. "The whole thing is unbelievable, top to bottom," Papiano said.

Papiano said that Huntington Ambulance, which has been employed by Southern California racetracks for decades, did not immobilize Pincay's neck after the accident.

"They did immobilize Julie Krone's neck a week later when she got hurt, and she's doing pretty well now," Papiano said.

Papiano said Pincay was brought to the track's first aid station instead of being taken to the hospital. Once there, according to Papiano, Angel Delgadillo - an assistant to Dr. Melvin Coates, who was not on duty at the time - treated Pincay. Delgadillo, according to Papiano, "moved Laffit's head, forward and back, said it looked okay, told him to take some pills and go home."

Santa Anita is in the lawsuit "for employing these people," Papiano said.

Pincay spent the next two days "trying to loosen up," according to Papiano, who said Pincay jogged and had a massage. Pincay was scheduled to return to action a few days later, but when the pain persisted, according to Papiano, Pincay went to Huntington Memorial Hospital near his home in Pasadena for X-rays.

"They took X-rays, then told him, 'Don't move from that chair,' " Papiano said. "The injury was to his C-2, which is what they call a 'hangman's fracture.' He was hanging by a thread. If he wasn't so damn strong, he could have died at any moment."

According to Papiano, that was the first time X-rays were taken of Pincay's neck following the accident.

Pincay was then outfitted with a halo, which immobilized his head and neck. He wore the halo for nearly two months.

"If they had put the halo on him right away, he could have been like Julie Krone, back riding," Papiano said. "You can't go that long hanging by a thread."

Santa Anita officials were not available to comment on the lawsuit, but the track has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

Papiano is considered one of the most powerful attorneys in Los Angeles. Because of his involvement as a horse owner, and his lifelong interest in racing, he has represented a number of racing personalities over the years. A decade ago, Papiano represented Bill Shoemaker in various lawsuits following a car accident that resulted in Shoemaker's being paralyzed.