Family Files Lawsuit Against Lewis County, Carriage Company for Injuries From Runaway Horse


Three members of a family injured or otherwise harmed after a horse pulling a carriage ran into a packed midway at the 2016 Southwest Washington Fair have filed a lawsuit against Lewis County and the owner of the horse.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 22, names John, who goes by Jake, Morgan, his wife, Emily Morgan; and their 4-year-old daughter; Helen Morgan, as plaintiffs and Lewis County and Classic Carriages LLC, owned by Carrie E. Swearingen, as defendants. The suit was filed in Thurston County Superior Court.

“The Defendant, Lewis County, was negligent in the supervision and control of dangerous or potentially dangerous animals in Lewis County, and failed to establish and operate an efficient and effective animal control system at the Southwest Washington Fair to prevent injury to patrons,” according to the complaint filed by the Morgans. 

Furthermore, the complaint argues that Lewis County is responsible for the actions of its agent, Classic Carriages, which owned the horse, named Duramax, and carriage in question. 

The lawsuit also names Classic Carriages in the suit, saying “employees failed to properly train and handle Duramax, who was unsafe and unfit and improperly maintained, supervised, controlled and was not fit to be used for the purpose for which it was being used, all of which Defendants had knowledge, or under the circumstances should have had knowledge.” 

Jake and Helen Morgan were both injured during the Aug. 19 incident. According to the lawsuit, Emily Morgan suffered “severe mental anguish” as a result of the incident. 

The lawsuit follows three tort claims filed by the Morgans, one each for Jake, Emily and their daughter Helen, on Sept. 28, claiming between $2.5 and $5 million in individual damages for each person. 

Plaintiffs must wait 60 days after filing a tort claim to file an official lawsuit. 

A hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 30 to set a date for trial. 

The Morgans’ lawsuit asks for unspecified damages.

Attorney John Justice, representing Lewis County in the case, said he could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit. 

Attorney Lincoln Beauregard, lead attorney for the Morgans, and attorney Gabriella Wagner, representing Classic Carriages, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

According to information from the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office reported in previous Chronicle coverage, the incident occurred at approximately 2:35 p.m. Aug. 19 on the midway at the Southwest Washington Fair.

Reports stated a horse pulling a carriage spooked and ran into a crowded area of the midway. 

“The carriage was careening behind the horse out of control,” Former chief deputy Stacy Brown wrote in an incident report. 

The horse and carriage hit several people, including Jake and Helen Morgan. 

After the incident, the horse was taken to a stall. The Sheriff’s Office report noted that Swearingen said a forklift spooked the horse.

Jake Morgan suffered head trauma and other injuries and was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center. Helen Morgan was transported to Providence Centralia Hospital with bruises and head trauma. 

According to the lawsuit, Emily Morgan “suffered and continues to suffer severe mental anguish due to the sight of watching her husband and small child suffer tremendously from their injuries.