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When Can You Euthanize Your Insured Horse?

A major difference between mortality insurance on a horse and life insurance on a human is that equine mortality policies typically expect the possibility that the insured horse can be destroyed and payment can still follow.  Over the years, court battles have also arisen on the question of whether the owner’s intentional destruction was truly warranted.  A discussion of some of the cases follows.

In a 1977 Louisiana case, its Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiff was not entitled to recover benefits under an equine mortality policy because the horse owner violated an “intentional slaughter” exclusion in the policy when he euthanized his horse.  Interestingly, the plaintiff had veterinary support for the euthanasia decision.  Then, he submitted the claim after euthanizing the horse.  The problem was, the insured never sought advance approval from the equine insurer, Lloyd’s.  By doing so, the court held, he violated the policy’s “intentional slaughter” exclusion and he failed to show – even with the veterinary support – that the horse was “suffering” from a disease that was “incurable and so excessive that immediate destruction is necessary for humane reasons.”  [The case was Bunch v. Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, 343 So. 2d 994 (La. 1977).]

In a 1951 Vermont case, the plaintiff insured his horse with an equine mortality policy but failed to fulfill a condition in the policy that required him to produce a certificate by a qualified veterinarian that “destruction was necessary in order to immediately relieve incurable suffering.”  By all indications, the insured intentionally destroyed his insured horse and sought payment.  The insurer denied the claim.  Siding with the insurer, the court held that the failure to fulfill the policy’s veterinary certification requirement prevented the plaintiff from recovering under the policy. [The case was Abraham v. Insurance Company of North America, 117 Vt. 75, 84 A.2d 670 (Vt. 1951).]

Finally, an 1884 case stands for the proposition that an insured cannot “hasten the death of the horse” and then seek payment under an equine mortality policy.  In that case, the plaintiff owned a horse that was insured, but he euthanized his horse two hours before the policy was scheduled to lapse.  The insurer denied the claim, invoking provisions in the policy that excluded intentional slaughter.  The horse owner sued but lost.  Ruling in favor of the insurer, the Iowa Supreme Court stated, among other things, that “[t]he entire contract of insurance shows that it was not intended that defendant should be liable for any willful act which tended to hasten the death of the horse insured, but that it should be relieved from liability by such act.”  [The case was Tripp v. Northwestern Live-Stock Insurance Co., 91 Iowa 278, 59 N.W. 1 (1884).]

As attorneys for several equine insurers, we suggest that policy holders make sure to follow the provisions of an equine insurance policy carefully.

Categories: Insurance

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four 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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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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Foster Swift's Equine Law Blog was ranked #8 in Feedspot.com's "15 Best Equine Law Blogs and Websites".

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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 

Some of our Equine Law Services

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 a wide variety of equine-related 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, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) 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 directly.

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