MALLET MALICE?

LAWSUITS Three years ago, at the Willow Bend Polo & Hunt Club, BOBBY PAYNE JR. struck ALAN CONNELLin the face with a polo mallet, costing him the sight in his right eye. So Connell, 66, sued Willow Bend; Payne Jr., whose father, ROBERT PAYNE SR., is an officer of a corporation owning part of the club; and NORMAN BRINKER, trustee for the Maureen Connally Brinker trust, the other owner. Brinker was also playing in the game.

When the case came to trial in March, jurors were surprised to learn that the Willow Bend Polo Committee had found Payne Jr. grossly negligent and had recommended he be censured by the U.S. Polo Association. But Payne Sr. and Brinker overruled the action and imposed a nine-month probation. It was also revealed that Payne Jr. had hit three other players in the head in other games-including Brinker, who took 14 stitches but testified that his injury was just part of the game’s risk.

When the trial was over, the jury decided to award no damages to Connell, who is considering a new lawsuit. Connell says that three witnesses against Payne Jr. refused to testify at the last minute, claiming “intimidation and threats to their polo careers.”

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