Suit Over Polo Injury Settled for $6.3 Million

Times Staff Writer

A Beverly Hills oral surgeon who injured his right hand during a 1984 polo lesson at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center was awarded a $6.3-million settlement in a lawsuit he filed against the Burbank-based center.

Attorneys for Dr. Andrew Glassman, 37, agreed to the settlement Tuesday just as the suit was to be heard by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury. An oral surgeon for about five years, Glassman no longer is able to practice surgery because of the injury, said his attorney, Tom V. Girardi.

An attorney for Equestrian Centers of America, which was named in the lawsuit as operator of the city of Los Angeles-owned facility in 1984, said he felt the settlement was reasonable.

The attorney, Patrick J. Hast, said an economist and accountant who were scheduled to testify on behalf of Glassman were prepared to say that Glassman would have earned $7 million to $8 million during his lifetime if it were not for the injury.

"His attorneys were prepared to put on evidence that they said would show he would have earned in excess of that amount," Hast said.

He said Glassman was earning more than $300,000 a year for performing oral and specialized facial surgery. "This was already a wealthy guy," he added. "We just made him more wealthy."

Glassman was taking a private polo lesson on Oct. 28, 1984, at the equestrian center when he fell off his rented horse. He claimed in the suit that the center was negligent because a saddle strap on the horse he was riding snapped, and the saddle loosened as he tried to hit the polo ball.

Faulty Equipment

The strap that broke, a billet strap that fastens the saddle to the girth, had pulled away from its webbing, and was repaired with a staple instead of being stitched, the suit said.

Glassman did sign a general release absolving the equestrian center of liability in case of an accident, but his attorneys contended the release did not cover faulty equipment.

Glassman's right hand was not broken in the accident, but it suffered so much nerve damage that he can no longer grasp anything without pain, Girardi said. "The injury massively interfered with his ability to perform surgery," he said.

Glassman could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

In the settlement, Glassman will receive a cash payment of $1.62 million. The balance will be paid in yearly installments of $100,000 over the next 30 years, with 3% interest payments accruing annually, Girardi said.

Girardi said his client now is "looking forward to a teaching career. He plans to open a consultation practice."

The settlement will be paid by insurance companies that held policies on the center at the time of the accident, Girardi said.

The center's former operator, Equestrian Centers of America, has turned management of the facility over to the Southern California Hotel Group. Equestrian Centers of America was forced out after its largest creditor foreclosed on the center earlier this year.

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