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Someone Was Hurt While Riding Your Horse - When Saying “So Sorry” Might be Enough

You allowed someone to ride your horse, but the worst-case scenario later came true – your friend fell off and was injured. Certainly, the immediate response is to make sure that your friend received proper medical attention and that your friend is safe. But can your words, made after the fact, form a basis for liability? Sometimes they can. In a recent case from New Jersey, in fact, they did.

The case involved two friends who met through their children's parochial school. One of them (the defendant) owned horses, and the other (the plaintiff) asked to ride but her riding experience had been limited over the past 20 years. The defendant allowed plaintiff to ride a 17 year-old Thoroughbred mare named “Annie,” while the defendant rode an Arabian/QuarterHorse/Saddlebred cross named “Nicodemus.” Their ride, lasting about 40 minutes, went well, but upon return, the defendant suggested that plaintiff ride “Nicodemus” alone on the trail. Sometime later, after “Nicodemus” ran back to the barn alone, the defendant discovered that plaintiff had fallen off and was seriously injured. 

After the incident occurred, the defendant wrote a “To whom it may concern” letter in which she stated, among other things: “I was negligent in letting [the plaintiff] ride out alone...I did a very foolish thing. A very negligent and careless thing.”

A lawsuit followed, but the trial court dismissed the case on the strength of New Jersey’s Equine Activity Liability Act [N.J.S.A. 5:15-1 to -12], finding that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from “assumed risks,” regardless of the defendant’s letter. The court of appeals reversed, however. In doing so, it found that the circumstances, and especially the defendant’s letter of admission, could potentially lead a jury to conclude that the defendant was liable for allowing a rider with insufficient experience to ride her horse alone on the trail. Under New Jersey’s statute, liability could potentially exist if the defendant engaged in an “act or omission...that constituted negligent disregard for [the plaintiff’s] safety, which act or omission caused the injury.”


Should you admit liability after an accident occurs? It always helps to make an informed decision after speaking with your lawyer.

The case was: Stroman v. Bell, No. A-1667-10T1; 2012 WL 4093578 (N.J. Super 9/19/2012)(unpublished).

Categories: Liability

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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 and, and

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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 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. 


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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