The 1990’s witnessed a revolution in the laws regarding liability of horsemen for equine-related injuries. As of December, 1997, 40 states have enacted equine activity liability laws. State legislatures created these laws in order to limit the liability of equine professionals and activity sponsors from participant injuries resulting from the “inherent risks” of equine activities.

The statutes assist horsemen in defending a lawsuit in court, as they make it harder for the injured party to establish liability on the part of the equine professional or sponsor. Cases are often thrown out early in the legal process with the assistance of these statutes. The statutes also prevent some lawsuits from ever being filed, as attorneys are less likely to represent a party injured in an equine accident where the statutes make the liability questionable.

Each statute is different, but many of the general provisions remain the same throughout. This article will give an overview of the average equine activity liability statute. Be sure to check your state’s law to ensure you are protected by the statute.

Many horse people have heard about the equine activity liability statutes and believe it protects them from any and all injuries resulting from equine-related activities. This belief is incorrect. Only certain activities will be covered by the statute.

While definitions may vary from state tot state, the range of equine “activities” covered by the statutes are generally broad. Activities typically include shows, rides, competitions, lessons, boarding horses, inspecting horses and horse shoeing, regardless of breed or discipline. While broad, the statutes generally do not cover spectators, employees or horse racing activities.

Typically, most people involved with horses will enjoy some protection from the statutes. Most states require that, in order to take advantage of the benefits of the statute, equine activity sponsors and equine professionals must post warning signs and include the statutory warning statement in any equine contract they utilize. Activity sponsors are those individuals or groups who sponsor, organize or provide facilities for equine activities. Professionals are those who instruct, rent horses or rent equipment for compensation. If you qualify as an activity sponsor or professional, be sure to check your state statute to ensure you comply with the requirements.

The equine activity statutes only protect horsemen against lawsuits arising out of injuries caused by “inherent risks” of equine activities. These risks are generally defined as:

-The unpredictability of the horse and its behavior that results in injury, harm or death to persons on or around them
-Rider negligence
-Surface conditions

Most statutes also include a list of activities which are NOT considered inherent risks. If a participant is injured by one of these items, the horseman will not be protected by the statutes:

-Providing tack you knew or should have known was unsafe, unfit or faulty
-Mismatching horse and rider
-Failing to warn the participant of a hidden danger which is known by the horseman
-Intentionally injuring participant
-Using gross negligence

As of the end of 1997, the following states have passed equine activity liability laws: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

In order to protect yourself properly, check the notice requirements of the statute (i.e., posting warning signs). Post the warning signs so they are easily seen by all entering the barn. Include the warning statement in every contract and waiver entered into. Implement a pro-active approach to safety, including keeping detailed records of your activities. Most importantly, use your common sense when mixing people and horses.

Michael Beethe, Esq.
About the Author

Farris Law Firm, LLC
20355 Nall Avenue, Stilwell, KS 66085
Phone: (913) 766-1262
Fax: (913) 766-1262

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Equine Activity Liability Statutes What Do They Protect?

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