Some are honestly wondering about the legal ramifications of Madonna's recent fall from a horse, which her publicist blamed on an aggressive paparazzo. Her injuries, thank goodness, don't seem serious. But the incident offers a chance for a bit of exposition and education on the laws of personal injury. Can she sue? Would she win? Could she collect? The answers are sure, maybe, and probably not.
Can she sue?
Would she win?
Everyone, everywhere, at all times, has a "duty" under the law to act as a reasonable person would act in the same situation. That legal standard is vague, and it's usually up to a jury, and not a judge, to decide whether someone's actions were reasonable under the circumstances. I don't think it requires anything more than common sense to know that startling a horse can cause injury to its rider.
The department that rendered aid to her is releasing its own opinion on the matter. I found their statements rather curious. If Madonna said nothing to them about the photographer, that is neither here nor there. In the usual trip-and-fall, there's no reason for a responder to deeply delve. "How did this happen?" "I fell from my horse." That's as much of a conversation as I'd expect to see reflected in a police report.
Could she collect?
The press says he was a freelancer. Since he had no regular employer that could also be held accountable for his actions, there would be no insured corporate deep pocket to shake down. As a private person, he might own a home and might have homeowner's insurance. But it probably isn't much, and it might not cover such a claim since it arose from his line of business. Most homeowner's policies have limits or exclusions when you're sued because of the work that you do.
Believe it or not, as a rule lawyers do not like to pursue the personal assets of tort defendants (unless they've done something particularly egregious, and even then, I don't know many lawyers who would push to collect personally from an uninsured or underinsured person). If the jury did slam the fellow with a large verdict, he would have the option of filing for bankruptcy and blowing out the judgment there.
So even if Madonna did win a lawsuit against the fellow, she'd probably have a devil of a time getting any money from him. That's not to say I wouldn't take the case. If she needs a lawyer to handle the claim, gosh, I'm available!
Bottom line: While Madonna has credibility problems in general and a lifestyle that most people disdain, the paparazzi aren't doing much better these days in the court of public opinion. Given all the times when some jerk of a photographer sued a star for some stupid dustup, it might be fun to see the shoe on the other foot.