I’m Not a Boarding Stable, BUT …
A backyard horse owner named Jane boards a few horses during the winter. Jane’s facility has box stalls and an indoor arena, making it desirable during the snowy winter months where Jane lives. Jane doesn’t view her activities as a business. She views herself as earning some extra money and helping friends.
What could go wrong? Plenty.
Legal Standards Can Be Higher for Businesses
In the eyes of the law, even if Jane’s business is intermittent, it’s still considered to be a business. Consequently, if a customer or business visitor is injured, a lawyer will seek to hold Jane to the standards of a business. This can be a problem with premises liability cases (such as slip and fall cases). For example, if a visitor or customer slips and falls on ice in the barn’s parking area, and accuses Jane of failing to take reasonable precautions, that lawyer will likely seek to hold Jane to a higher standard of care that businesses owe their customers.
People in Jane’s situation sometimes assume that boarding contracts and releases are all they need for protection against claims and suits, but that assumption is wrong. One day, a boarded horse might escape from the pasture, wander onto a nearby road, and injure or kill a motorist (who never signed a contract). Adding to the problem, even if Jane tried to invoke "indemnity or hold harmless" language in her contracts and expected a boarder to pay her legal defense costs and more, the boarder probably lacks the funds to do so.
If Jane is not insured for a business activity on her property, she’ll likely have no coverage under her homeowner’s insurance policy for the boarder’s slip and fall claim or the motorist’s injury claim because homeowner's insurance policies usually have a "business pursuit" exclusion, which prevents coverage. Now Jane is forced to retain a lawyer at her own expense. Worse, a judgment against Jane, if not paid, could potentially result in the party suing her forcing a sale of her property and assets.
Here are some ideas to consider for those seeking to board a few horses on an occasional basis:
- Check with your insurance agent to make sure you're protected. You’ll need to purchase some form of commercial liability coverage or policy endorsement.
- Have all visitors to the facility of legal age sign waivers/releases (where allowed by law). Have all boarders sign properly worded boarding contracts. Determine whether your state Equine Activity Liability Act requires special "warning" or other language in your contracts, as these laws often impose contract language requirements on equine businesses.
- Check your property, including stall and fence areas, before boarders bring over horses to make sure you're comfortable with their condition.
- Understand the obligations expected of you when you operate a small business such as inspections of property and arrangements to respond to possible hazards on the property.
- Determine whether Equine Activity Liability Act "warning" signs should be posted on or near your property, as these laws often impose these requirements on equine businesses.
- Discuss with your lawyer whether you should set up, and manage, a corporation or LLC for your small equine business activities.
- Remember that releases do not substitute for liability insurance. Because people who sign releases can, and sometimes do, file lawsuits, make sure you are properly insured.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!
Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed this week by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.
Honors & Recognitions
Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.
On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit www.ayhc.com/.
On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit www.miequine.com/.
RECENT EQUINE LAW COURTROOM VICTORY
We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.
"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013
Win Equine law Books!
We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit www.equinelaw.net and www.equinelaw.info or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]
Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry
We applaud the American Horse Council (www.horsecouncil.org) for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.
THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER
Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.
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