Paralyzed jockey earns settlement

By John O'Brien | Aug 9, 2006

CHARLESTON - A jockey who was paralyzed during a horse race in West Virginia and the Jockeys' Guild have reached a settlement.

Gary Birzer filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Jockeys' Guild that was settled in federal court in Los Angeles, in the Central District of California.

The terms of the settlement are not known, however. An order was filed July 14 for a settlement hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal, and that hearing took place Aug. 4.

Birzer was reportedly happey with the monetary aspect of the settlement, as well as the five years of health insurance and public role with the Guild working as an advocate for disabled jockeys that it provides.

Birzer, who now lives in Cincinnati, was thrown headfirst from Lil Bit of Rouge on July 20, 2004, at Mountaineer Racetrack in Chester. He had purchased health insurance for $10 per race but was shocked to find out his policy had inexplicably lapsed.

With a wife and infant child, Birzer filed the lawsuit through Detroit attorney Paul Kozckur last year.

In testimony Oct. 18 before a House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee examining on-track injury insurance, Birzer said, "In the last year, I have had a lot of trouble with the Guild reimbursing us for my catheters and other needed medical supplies. We have had to make many phone calls and dealt with much aggravation in trying to get the reimbursements processed.

"After remaining loyal to the Guild for so many years and relying on their promises, both in group meetings and when they have talked to directly to me, I feel that they have completely let me down."

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