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Communication Can Save Lives and Avoid Horse Boarding Disputes

Never did the stable owner expect to be sued. A horse in his care became injured in the pasture, with a large wound, but the stable owner thought he had it under control. He dressed the wound, gave the horse a penicillin shot using old medication in the barn refrigerator, left the horse in the stall for a few days to rest and recover, and gave the horse only quick checks in the days that followed. There was no need to call a veterinarian, he thought. Several days later, however, the horse’s condition worsened to a very serious point, and by the time a veterinarian was summoned, the horse had to be put down. It turned out that the cut was more severe than the stable owner thought, and the penicillin was unsuitable for the horse. At the very end, a surprised horse owner received the call that the horse was gone. 

In this example, the stable owner’s actions led to the horse’s death under circumstances that were avoidable. The stable owner created other problems, as well. The horse owner’s equine mortality insurance claim was denied because the insurer believed two provisions of the policy were violated. First, the policy required only veterinarians to administer or supervise injections, but the stable administered the penicillin shot independently. Second, the policy required the owner (or someone of the owner’s behalf) to promptly notify the insurer if the horse became injured or ill, but nobody notified the insurer until several days had passed and when the horse was already a candidate for euthanasia.

How Communication Could Have Changed the Scenario

Prompt communication could potentially save a horse’s life. It can also spare the horse owner a considerable amount of money and avoid legal disputes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Stables can ask owners to give contact numbers in case the boarded horse becomes injured or ill. That way, the stable or trainer has an opportunity to seek the owner’s approval before veterinary attention is either withheld or sought.
  • The boarding and/or training contract can require the stable to notify the owner any time the horse becomes injured or ill and seek approval from the owner.
  • Horse owners can keep their boarding stables and trainers aware if the horse is insured with equine insurance. Importantly, stable owners and trainers can receive the insurer’s most current, designated (800) notice number and policy information in case the stable or trainer must place a call on the owner’s behalf. Equine insurance companies accept these calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Late notice could potentially justify the insurer in denying an equine mortality and major medical insurance claim.
  • Horse owners can leave a credit card on file with the regular attending veterinarian and encourage the stable to call the vet in the owner’s absence.
  • Stables and trainers can seek written authorization to arrange veterinary attention, at their discretion, if the owner cannot be reached. Boarding and training contracts can include this.

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Boarding

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry

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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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