Attacked Saddlebreds: Judge Rules Stable Owners Not Negligent

The owners of a central Kentucky boarding farm were not negligent when someone injected five Saddlebreds with a tissue-destroying substance in 2003, a judge has ruled.

Woodford Circuit Judge Paul Issacs issued a 13-page opinion Thursday (May 10) saying there's no evidence linking Dena and David Lopez, the owners of the Double D Ranch, to the attacks.

"These horses were injured by a willful act, but there is no evidence to connect that act to Ms. Lopez or her agents or employees," Issacs wrote.

The ruling cancels a trial in a civil lawsuit against the Lopezes that had been scheduled to begin Monday.

"I would characterize it as a major victory for Dena Lopez and Double D Ranch," said William Rambicure, the Lexington attorney who represented the farm. "There was no evidence of any intentional wrongdoing on the part of Dena, which is what we maintained throughout."

The attacks happened June 28, 2003, days before the Lexington Junior League Horse Show, the world's largest outdoor show for saddlebreds. The injections caused gaping wounds, and three of the animals, including the champion show horse Wild-Eyed & Wicked, had to be euthanatized.

No one has been arrested or charged in the attacks, but Double D sued Joe and Sally Jackson in 2004 seeking more than $13,000 in boarding fees and other expenses for the care of Wicked and another horse after the attacks.

The Jacksons, who live in Kansas, countersued Double D, claiming the ranch failed to tell them of the injuries to their horses, misrepresented the conditions of the animals and didn't get veterinary care quickly enough.

Issacs wrote that Joe Jackson signed a "release and hold harmless agreement" in 2001 that released Double D Ran from liability for injuries or property damage.

"Mr. Jackson made the decision to sign this agreement and he is now bound by that agreement," Isaacs wrote.

Issacs also ruled that the Lopezes could not back up any of the charges they wanted the Jacksons to pay.

The Jacksons and their attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Wicked's remains were exhumed in February 2005 from a grave on Double D Ranch. The remains were reburied that July at the Kentucky Horse Park, and a memorial service included the unveiling of a bronze marker of the horse's likeness, sculpted by Sally Jackson.

Rambicure said the lingering question of who injected the horses and why probably won't be answered unless someone comes forward with information.

"That hasn't happened. It's extraordinarily unfortunate that that hasn't happened. We certainly wish that that would happen," Rambicure said.

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--Greg Kocher/AP story

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