Wisniewski v. Kellenberger

Parties Involved

  • Plaintiff(s): Maciej Wisniewsk
  • Counsel for Plaintiff: Brian McManus


  • Defendant(s): Jessica Kellenberger | Whitney Sinclair | Fox Valley Saddle Association
  • Counsel for Defendants: Linda M. Holzrichter|  Joseph P. Sauber | Brian Riordan | Mitchel D. Torrence

Verdict Information

  • Verdict Date: April 19, 2024
  • Total damages awarded to Defendant: $11,733.19(In favor of Defendant)

About the Case


In the dark hours just after midnight on Thursday, September 8th, 2022, a terrifying incident unfolded on Illinois State Route 47. A horse named Laredo, who was being boarded at a nearby farm owned by Kellenberger, managed to escape from his stable confines. The startled horse took off at a gallop, running unfettered onto the state highway.

Laredo’s path of freedom tragically intersected with a vehicle operated by the plaintiff, resulting in a forceful collision of horse and automobile. The accident site was merely two miles down the road from Kellenberger’s farm where Laredo had been stabled. Across the street from this property sat the grounds of the Fox Valley Saddle Association, a long-standing non-profit riding club in the area.

However, investigations later confirmed that FVSA did not actually own, manage, or provide any horse boarding services at their facilities. In fact, the club’s records and members stated that Laredo the horse had never once set foot on FVSA’s premises either before or during this calamitous incident that night.


The impact of the vehicle collision proved to be catastrophic and deadly for Laredo. The powerful force killed the escaped horse upon impact, resulting in an immediate fatality for the animal. Meanwhile, the plaintiff behind the wheel of the automobile did not escape unscathed. The harrowing accident inflicted severe external and internal injuries upon the plaintiff’s body.

The trauma was so overwhelming that the plaintiff lapsed into an unconscious coma. This required urgent hospitalization and medical treatment in a desperate fight to preserve their life. What began as a late-night travel ended in devastating tragedy. An animal fatality, severe personal injuries, and two lives were forever changed by one shattering moment of impact on that highway after midnight.


The plaintiff’s complaint made two main allegations. First, it alleged that Kellenberger violated Section 16 of the Illinois Animal Control Act. Second, it claimed that both Kellenberger and the Fox Valley Saddle Association (FVSA) acted negligently.

Regarding FVSA specifically, the complaint alleged that Kellenberger owned the horse Laredo. It further alleged that FVSA had control over Laredo at the time of the accident. The complaint stated that FVSA acted negligently because it either knew or reasonably should have known that Laredo needed to be properly confined and supervised to prevent him from running loose on public roads. Based on these allegations against Kellenberger and FVSA, the plaintiff sought $5 million in damages from them.

Additionally, FVSA filed a motion to dismiss the case and sought sanctions against the plaintiff. FVSA argued that the plaintiff improperly named FVSA as a defendant in the lawsuit.


On April 12, 2023, the court noted that none of the plaintiff’s complaints explicitly alleged or even implied that FVSA was responsible for the accident due to an agency relationship with Kellenberger at the time of the accident. The court emphasized that there was never a justified reason for the plaintiff to file a lawsuit against FVSA in the first place.

Ultimately, the court granted the full amount of $11,733.19 to FVSA to cover Holzrichter’s attorney’s fees and costs. The court found this total amount to be reasonable. This matter went to the appeal. On April 19, 2024, an appeal court held that the trial court acted well within its discretion in awarding attorney fees and costs against the plaintiff in favor of the horse riding club that the plaintiff had improperly sued.

A reasonable inquiry by the plaintiff prior to filing the lawsuit would have revealed that the club held no connection whatsoever to the runaway horse involved in the accident or the incident itself. The amount of the sanction awarded, covering the club’s legal fees and expenses, was deemed a reasonable sum by the court after considering all the circumstances surrounding the frivolous claims made against the club. Furthermore, the club rightfully received sanctions due to the plaintiff’s complete lack of grounds in pursuing an appeal to challenge the original sanctions order.

Court Documents: Available upon Request