Archive for the ‘Equestrian’ Category

“Baled” Out – Woman Trips on Stairs at Farm; Indemnity Agreement in Release Contrary to Public Policy (CT)

September 2, 2015

Squinobal v. Zenko (Connecticut)

Plaintiff was injured when she slipped and fell on wooden stairs located on the defendant’s premises.  The defendant operated a farm and equestrian facility.  At the time of the incident, plaintiff was carrying a bale of hay and seed to a feed trailer.  Plaintiff filed a complaint alleging that her injuries resulted from the negligence and carelessness of the defendant.  The defendant filed a counterclaim based on a “Lesson, Horse Rental, and Arena Use Release” document (“Release”) signed by the plaintiff in order to ride horses at the facility.  The defendant then filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff had a duty to defend and indemnify the defendant under the terms of the Release. (more…)

Hard Lesson – Defendant Riding School Not Liable for Child Bucked from Horse (NY)

July 8, 2015

Quintanilla v. Thomas School of Horsemanship, Inc. (New York)

A minor child was thrown from a horse while taking an intermediate horse riding lesson, and her mother filed a lawsuit against the horse riding facility.  The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, contending that the claim was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk.  The trial court denied the motion, but the decision was reversed the the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Prior to the child’s participation in the riding lesson, her parents signed a “Camp and Riding Instruction Agreement and Liability Release,” which warned that the facility’s horses could react if they were frightened or provoked.  During the child’s lesson, several horses came in close proximity to one another, and one of the horses kicked a wooden fence or gate, causing the child’s horse to rear up and throw the child off.  The Court explained that “[t]he risks of falling from a horse or a horse acting in an unintended manner are risks inherent in the sport of horseback riding.”  As such, the defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Short Ride – Minor Child Falls From Horse During Birth Party; Statutory Immunity Applies (AL)

June 19, 2015

Estes v. Stepping Stone Farm, LLC (Alabama)

A four year old child attended a birthday party that included equestrian activities.  She fell from a horse during the party and was injured.  Her father filed a lawsuit against the equine center, the center’s owner, and the center’s employees, alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, and negligent failure to train or supervise.  The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment citing the Alabama Equine Activities Liability Protection Act (“Act”), which limits the civil liability of those involved with equine activities as it pertains to risks inherent in the activities.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
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Down the Stretch He Comes – Trainer Not Liable to Boarder for Unleashed Dog that Injured Boarder (CA)

May 1, 2015

Plumer v. Rigdon (California)
(not published)

Plaintiff boarded her horse at Arroyo Del Mar Stables, and the defendant was a horse trainer at the stable.  Plaintiff was injured when the defendant’s dog ran into the barn, ran down the barn aisle, and then collided with plaintiff as it ran by, causing plaintiff to suffer a leg injury.  Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging a single cause of action for negligence.  Defendant moved for summary judgment arguing “(1) no legal duty existed to prevent the injury caused by [defendant’s] dog; and (2) the presence of dogs was a condition known to [plaintiff] and a risk she assumed explicitly in a release agreement with the Stables and implicitly by her presence at the Stables.”  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that defendant owed not duty of care to plaintiff.  Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration with the trial court citing San Diego County Code Ordinances and arguing that defendant “had a prima facie claim that [defendant’s] conduct in allowing the dog to run free violated the Ordinances.”  The trial court concluded it lacked jurisdiction to rule on the motion because it had already entered judgment.  Plaintiff then appealed the decision.

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Coach of Youth Equestrian Rider Escapes Liability in Wrongful Death Case (CA)

March 11, 2015

Eriksson v. Nunnink (California)

In 2006, a 17-year old girl was killed while riding a horse in competition in California.  The parents of the decedent sued for wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress, alleging that the horse was “unfit to ride because of prior falls and lack of practice.”  After the plaintiffs presented evidence at trial, the trial court granted defendant’s motion for entry of judgment, which the plaintiffs appealed.  The Court of Appeal held that the minor waiver and release agreement signed by the decedent and her mother prior to decedent’s participation in the competition was enforceable as a liability defense to the wrongful death claim.  Although a minor can “disaffirm” a written contract, the terms of the waiver and release agreement became “irrevocable and binding” under California caselaw when the agreement was signed by the minor’s parent. (more…)

On The Loose

September 28, 2012

White v. Elias (Ohio)
(An individual who was kicked by an escaped horse brought an action against the horse owner and the property owner; the court ruled that there was no strict liability but that an issue of material fact as to the potential negligence of the defendants.)

A horse boarding facility released horses to graze in a pasture unsupervised.  However, because there was no food trough and because the pasture was bare, six-horse then escaped from the pasture and ended up on a neighboring property.  The neighbor saw the horses and called the plaintiff because she was familiar with the horses.  They asked if she could help lead the horses home.  However, when the plaintiff approached the group of horses, one of them kicked back and hit her in the face, causing serious and permanent injuries.

The plaintiff sued the horse owner and the owner of the property where the horse was boarded, alleging claims for strict liability and negligence.  The defendants moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted.  The plaintiff appealed.

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And the Case Rides Off Into the Sunset

September 18, 2012

Eburn v. Capitol Peak Outfitters, Inc. (Colorado)
(An inexperienced rider was injured during a horseback ride and she sued the facility and equipment provider for negligence; the court found that the exculpatory agreement signed by the plaintiff precluded liability.)

Prior to her participation in a horseback ride, the plaintiff signed two documents, a “Participant Release of Liability and Assumption of Risk Agreement” and a “Protective Headgear Refusal.”  The release document addressed both the inherent risks associated with the activity and included a release of liability for the potential negligent conduct of the defendant.  The District Court denied the plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment and granted the defendant’s cross motion for partial summary judgment based on the exculpatory document.

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Fenced Off

June 20, 2007

Goettsch v. El Capitan Stadium Association (California-NOT PUBLISHED)
(Tied Up “Green” Horse at Rodeo Pulls Rope and Severs Spectators Fingers; Duty of Care Owed)

The plaintiff attended a rodeo. He was standing next to a chain link fence surrounding a warm up area on the defendant’s property. A “green” horse (i.e. a horse that has had little education and exposure to activities and events) was tied to the fence. Plaintiff placed his hands on the chain link fence. The horse pulled back from the fence and the plaintiff’s hand became entangled in the horse’s rope. Four of his fingers were severed from his hands. The plaintiff filed a complaint alleging negligence based upon a dangerous condition on the premises. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that liability was precluded by primary assumption of the risk, and that it did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care because the condition encountered was open and obvious.  The court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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