A woman who alleged negligence against a local carriage tour operator now faces a lawsuit from the company accusing her of the same thing.

An attorney representing Carolina Polo and Carriage Co. and its manager, Robert Knoth, filed a civil suit Aug. 26 in Charleston County against Nancy Lane, who contracted with the company during a two-year period when five horses died.

Lane contacted People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, then sent a 15-page letter to Charleston city officials, touching off an animal-neglect investigation that remains open.

In her letter, Lane accused Carolina Polo of hiding sick horses from the public, delaying medical care and cutting costs by feeding the animals low-quality hay. She wrote that Knoth "willfully neglects and abuses his horses."

Carolina Polo attorney Capers Barr III countered that, "It's very interesting, of course, that these horses' deaths occurred at her hands."

The lawsuit says Lane, who boarded the animals, ordered and administered feed "without complaint, criticism or advice to Carolina Polo." It blames her for two horses' deaths.

Lane and her boyfriend, a former barn hand at a competing carriage tour operator, moved to Mexico in recent days, according to friends. Lane received notice of the lawsuit before leaving town.

Her cell phone has been disconnected and she did not answer an interview request by e-mail. She must respond to the lawsuit within 30 days of its filing.

The suit against her recalls Samson, Carolina Polo's "flagship" horse, suffering from abdominal pain and needing close attention overnight. It alleges that Lane failed to care for him and delayed telling the owners how sick he became.

After Lane refused to take Samson to his veterinarian, the lawsuit alleges, he died on her farm.

A second horse named Beauregard developed hoof problems and required a strict diet and a dry place to stand. The lawsuit accuses Lane of feeding the horse too much, too fast and letting his feet get muddy.

Beauregard became sicker, according to the lawsuit, and was euthanized.

The lawsuit also alleges that a co-defendant, Anna Hendricks, asked a Carolina Polo employee to meet with her, Lane and an animal-rights activist to photograph two of the company's horses that Hendricks had deemed "next to die."

The filing says Lane and Hendricks asked that employee and another to steal horses' temperature charts from the company.

Both employees refused, the suit says.

Hendricks could not be reached for comment, and she has not been served with the lawsuit, according to Barr. He said Hendricks previously worked for Carolina Polo.

Lane photographed Carolina Polo's horses in front of customers, according to the lawsuit, and complained to city tourism officials, another carriage operator and police. Investigators eventually arrived at the company's barn with a search warrant for X-rays and medical records.

The lawsuit requests compensation for "causing embarrassment, humiliation and a loss of business," breaching a contractual duty to care for horses and interfering with the business through photography and comments.

It accuses Lane of negligence and breach of contract, plus both women of civil conspiracy and defamation. Barr would not assign a dollar value to the damages sought in the case.

"The goal of the suit is to hold the defendants accountable," he said. It also requests an injunction that Lane and Hendricks remain at least 100 yards away from Carolina Polo's operations.

Barr said the company waited until now to file the lawsuit in part because of an open municipal court proceeding. Carolina Polo representatives last month pleaded guilty to four code violations related to the way the company maintains its horses and stables.

A judge assessed nearly $1,800 in fines, and tourism officials still can choose to suspend the company's operations as additional punishment.

Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or abird@postandcourier.com.