Equine Activity Statutes – Part 3: Exceptions and Other Considerations
Another often litigated question in cases that potentially involve the state’s equine activity statute is whether one of the statutory exceptions to immunity apply. These are situations where the injured party is a “participant”, the defendant is an “equine activity sponsor/professional” and the injury was caused by an “inherent risk of equine activity”, but the court still may not dismiss the matter because one of the statutory exceptions to immunity apply.
These exceptions immunity for the equine sponsor/professional typically include:
When the sponsor/professional provides faulty tack
When the sponsor/professional fails to determine the rider’s ability
When the sponsor/professional knows of a dangerous condition upon the land where the activity occurs yet gives no warning
When the sponsor/professional willfully or wantonly disregards the safety of the participant
When the sponsor/professional intentionally injures the participant
In one case involving a statutory exception, a mother and son went on a trail ride on horses provided by a stable. The saddle the stable provided had stirrups that, even when shortened as much as possible, didn’t reach the mother’s feet. The stable’s solution was to cock the stirrups on their side.
While out on the ride, the horse the mother was riding began to run, causing her to fall off because she was unable to reach her stirrups to gain balance. The court considered the saddle to be “faulty tack”, so the stable was not afforded protection by the state’s equine activity statute.
In another case involving a statutory exception, a mother and daughter arrived at a stable to test ride a horse to purchase. The mother told the stable that the daughter needed a “bomb proof”, “dead broke” horse. The stable employee warmed up the horse prior to the daughter’s ride and the mother noticed that the horse appeared to have a lot of energy.
The daughter then rode the horse several times around the arena and when the horse broke into a gallop, the girl fell off. Even though there had been no previous complaints about this particular horse, according to the court, the horse’s skittish behavior prior to the girl’s ride should have put the stable on notice that the girl did not have sufficient ability to ride. The “failure to determine rider ability” exception to immunity was triggered and the stable was not protected from liability by the statute.
In most states, in order for an equine sponsor/professional to obtain protection by the equine activity statute, they must post proper signage throughout their facility and utilize the proper warning language within any service contract used by the equine professional.
Decide Whether You Need Legal Support
As with any legal issue, personal injury cases involving equine activities are very nuanced and their outcomes can vary widely depending on state law. If you are an injured party, specific questions regarding your ability to recover should be directed to a knowledgeable attorney licensed in your state.
If you are an equine activity sponsor/professional, it’s important to understand the coverage afforded to you by your state’s equine activity statute and to be aware of ways in which you can minimize your exposure to liability.
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