The owner of seven champion horses killed or seriously injured when their transport trailer nearly overturned in March near Santa Barbara has filed a lawsuit against the hauling company and its driver, who was operating a trailer without proper licensing.
Sixth-generation horse trainer and breeder Shan de Wey of Termo, Calif., alleges in the civil claim that Mathew Gillispie of Triple-AC-Ranch in Arizona broke a contract when he picked up an eighth horse — after an agreed-upon exclusive trip — and then recklessly failed to maneuver a hairpin turn on Old San Marco Pass Road during the detour to drop it off in Santa Barbara.
Two of Wey’s horses were killed and five others were critically or seriously injured during the incident in the 2000 block of North San Marcos Road on March 28.
An eighth horse picked up in Madera on the route from Termo to Laveen, Ariz., suffered only minor injuries and was walked to its delivery point at Amapola Stables.
The suit, filed June 4, also alleges gross negligence and fraud, since Gillispie was operating the trailer without proper licenses.
The California Highway Patrol, which investigated the incident, confirmed this week that Gillispie was given a traffic citation for not having the proper California commercial license.
CHP determined the driver made an “unsafe turning movement” and had not obtained the Class A commercial license needed to operate a vehicle weighing over 10,000 pounds, Officer John Gutierrez told Noozhawk.
The trailer carrying registered thoroughbreds, warmbloods and American paint horses weighed 16,200 pounds, Gutierrez said.
Wey is asking the court for more than $25,000 in damages, but an exact amount wasn’t given.
The horses were valued at nearly $60,000, however, and Wey requested compensation for emotional and financial distress because the horses were Wey’s only source of income through breeding, sales and equestrian events.
The suit said Triple-AC-Ranch was hired to transport six mares (females) for breeding and one gelding for sale.
A secret “dangerous detour” from a planned Nevada route followed, as the hauling company picked up an eighth horse in a trailer designed to hold seven, the suit said.
The eighth horse occupied space designed for storage, already holding hay and feed, Wey alleged.
Zorlion, a horse in the front trailer stall, was crushed and killed by the weight of the other horses after the driver lost control, she said.
The lone male, Diamonte Dan, had to be euthanized after struggling to exit the trailer and suffering a severe laceration near his hoof.
A third horse required skin grafts to cover exposed bone, and another suffered bleeding from the lungs.
The suit alleged all horses suffered extreme shock, muscle damage, lacerations, abrasions and severe weight loss due to trauma.
Wey herself allegedly experienced shock, anxiety, depression and nightmares, since she raised five of the seven horses and they were considered family.
According to the suit, Triple-A-Ranch has been in business since 2000.
The company could not be reached for comment Tuesday, and a listed phone number and website were not in service.