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Ramsey v. Louisiana State Racing Commission

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

May 23, 2018

KENNETH L. RAMSEY AND SARAH K. RAMSEY Plaintiff-Appellees
v.
LOUISIANA STATE RACING COMMISSION Defendant-Appellant

          Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Bossier, Louisiana Trial Court No. 145973 Honorable John Marion Robinson, Judge

          RHEA PATRICIA LONEY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL Counsel for Appellant.

          WILLIAM S. MARSHALL, JR. Counsel for Appellees.

          Before BROWN, GARRETT, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          McCALLUM, J.

         This Court is called upon to determine the outcome of a horse race. Specifically, this litigation regards which horse - "Coalport" or "Benwill" - won the September 6, 2014, "Unbridled Stakes" at Louisiana Downs racetrack in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. The appellees are Kenneth Ramsey and Sarah Ramsey (the "Ramseys"), who own Coalport. The appellant is the Louisiana State Racing Commission (the "Commission").

         The parties agree that Coalport was the first horse to finish the race. However, the Louisiana Downs stewards initiated an inquiry as to whether Coalport fouled Benwill (by drifting in front of him so as to impede or interfere with his course or speed), and thereby changed the outcome of the race. Additionally, Donnie Meche, Benwill's jockey, filed an objection after the race whereby he raised the same issue. The Board of Stewards for Louisiana Downs (the "Stewards") determined that Coalport fouled Benwill, and that, but for the foul, Benwill would have won the race. On that basis, Coalport was demoted to second place and Benwill was declared the official winner. The Ramseys appealed to the Commission, which affirmed the Stewards' decision.[1] Thereupon, the Ramseys appealed to the 26th Judicial District Court, which reversed the Commission and reinstated Coalport as the winner. In so doing, the trial court held: (1) the Commission applied the wrong standard of review, which was more deferential than the preponderance standard which the Commission should have used; and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that Coalport's foul of Benwill altered the outcome of the race.

         In this appeal, the Commission urges the following assignments of error: (1) the trial court erred in finding that the Commission's decision was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence; (2) the trial court erred in determining that the Commission applied the incorrect burden of proof; and (3) the trial court failed to give the Commission any deference regarding its determinations of witness credibility.

         The Ramseys concede that Coalport fouled Benwill; the point of contention is whether the outcome of the race would have been different but for the foul.

         DISCUSSION

         Law

         Substantive law. The governing substantive law is as follows:

A leading horse is entitled to any part of the track, but if any horse swerves, or is ridden to either side, so as to interfere with or impede any other horse, it is a foul. The offending horse may be disqualified, if in the opinion of the stewards the foul altered the finish of the race, regardless of ...

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