Washington Court Dismisses Equine Injury Lawsuit against Backyard Horse Facility Owner
Private, Backyard Facility Could Qualify as an “Equine Activity Sponsor” Under Equine Activity Liability Law
As of July 20, 2015, 47 states– all but California, Maryland, and New York – have passed some form of an Equine Activity Liability Act ("EALA"). These laws sometimes share common characteristics, but all of them differ. Most follow a pattern that prevents an “equine activity sponsor,” “equine professional,” or possibly others from being sued if a “participant” who “engages in an equine activity” suffers injury, death or damage from an “inherent risk.” For example, Tennessee’s EALA, T. C. A. § 44-20-103, states:
Except as provided in § 44-20-104, an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person, which shall include a corporation or partnership, shall not be liable for an injury to or the death of a participant resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities. Except as provided in § 44-20-104, no participant or participant's representative shall make any claim against, maintain an action against, or recover from an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person for injury, loss, damage, or death of the participant resulting from any of the inherent risks of equine activities.
The laws typically include a list of exceptions, many of which this blog has explained.
Lawsuits sometimes focus on whether a horse owner, professional, association, or stable owner qualifies as an “equine activity sponsor” and, if so, whether that person or entity is entitled to benefit from an EALA’s immunities. Last year, the Washington Court of Appeals considered this issue.
In the case, plaintiff and her 8 year-old daughter, Amanda, were interested in buying a horse named “Taz” from defendant Garrett. Garrett allowed them a two-week trial period. On the day of the incident, Amanda and her mother came to pick up “Taz” who, at the time, was stabled on property owned by Garrett’s fiancée, Glover. Amanda was allowed to ride “Taz” on Glover’s property, but while being led on the horse, she fell and was injured. She sued the horse owner (Garrett) and the property owner (Glover).
Defending against the lawsuit, Glover invoked the Washington Equine Activity Liability Act. That law states, in part, that an “equine activity sponsor or an equine professional shall not be liable for an injury to or the death of a participant engaged in an equine activity.” Glover asked the Court to dismiss the lawsuit because she was an “equine activity sponsor.” The plaintiff disagreed and argued that Glover could not be a “sponsor” because “sponsors” must engage in public, group-based equine activities and professional activities; here, by comparison, Glover was an average horse owner with a private, back yard facility.
Although the trial court refused to dismiss the case, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed. It noted that under the Washington EALA’s plain language, “an ‘equine activity sponsor’ includes an individual who provides the facilities for an equine activity.” Here, it was undisputed that Glover provided facilities to board “Taz.” The Court also explained that “[n]othing in the plain language of the statute requires the equine activity to be public or group-based in order to be covered under the statute. Further, while the equine activities listed in the definition of ‘equine activity sponsor’ are somewhat group-based in nature, that list is explicitly not exhaustive.”
The appellate court concluded that the case against her was properly dismissed under Washington’s EALA because Glover was an “equine activity sponsor” and none of the exceptions to immunity applied.
The case was: Glover v. Weber, 2014 Wash. App. LEXIS 2425 (Wash. App. 10/6/2014)
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 ›
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Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed 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.
Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:
National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants.
U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability.
IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”
National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics.
Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”
2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”
November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”
Honors & Recognitions
Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:
"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee
"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council
"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership
"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council
"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association
"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association
What our Equine Law Services can Provide
Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.
Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).
Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals, businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.
Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.
Representing and advising insurers on coverage and policy language as well as litigation;
Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.
Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.
Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners.
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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