Louisiana Jockey Bill Advances to Senate Floor

An undisclosed agreement between Louisiana racetracks and the Jockeys' Guild caused the latter organization to take a neutral stand on a bill in the Louisiana Senate limiting the ability of riders to raise frivolous lawsuits.

House Bill 56, by Representative Ronnie Johns, seemed to contain provisions leaving jockeys no legal recourse if injured due to inadequate on-track emergency medical treatment.

Since jockeys in Louisiana are already exempted from coverage under workers' compensation laws, it appeared the bill would cause riders to be shut out from any legal right to compensation for their injuries.

According to Guild attorney Shane Gusman, the bill wasn't officially revised, but the Louisiana tracks did testify they would maintain their contract insurance policies for the jockeys. Previously offered on a voluntary basis, the policies will protect the riders in catastrophic accidents.

In addition, sponsors of the bill assured the Guild that their intention was not to prevent jockeys from suing tracks in the event of negligence or willful conduct.

"We'll take the tracks for their word," said Gusman of the verbal agreement.

John Velazquez, chairperson of the Guild, said he would have advised jockeys not to race in Louisiana if the bill had passed without the aforementioned understanding from the tracks.

The bill, which will expand the definitions of equine facilities and equine employees to include racetracks, jockeys, and exercise riders, passed out of the Louisiana State Senate Judiciary Committee May 16 on a voice vote and will now move to the Senate floor.