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Lessons Learned from a Boarding Stable Payment Dispute

It's only a matter of time before a boarding stable encounters a legal dispute over payment of fees. In a recent Illinois lawsuit, both the boarder and the stable sued each other, but the stable won at the trial court level and later when the case was appealed. 

The Case

The non-paying boarder sued the stable alleging that it breached the boarding contract by depriving his four horses of proper care and attention. The stable, which had been trying to sell off the horses under the Illinois Innkeepers Lien Act, due to non-payment, counterclaimed for recovery of unpaid boarding fees plus late payment fees, attorney fees, and costs.

At the trial court level, the stable won. Ruling in the stable’s favor, the court ordered the boarder to pay past-due board fees, late fees, costs, and attorney fees under the Illinois Innkeepers Lien Act. On the boarder’s claims against the stable, the court awarded nothing.

The boarder appealed but lost. Among the arguments he raised that were rejected on appeal were the following: 

  • Argument: The boarder argued that the Illinois Equine Activity Liability Act prevents a boarding stable from recovering unpaid board fees.

    Court Response: Wrong. The Court found that the Illinois Equine Activity Liability Act was not applicable because it said nothing about money owed to a stable for boarding fees. To the contrary, "boarding an equine is not included within the definition of ‘engages in an equine activity" found in the law.”
  • Argument: The boarder also argued that the Illinois Innkeepers Lien Act only allows stables to recover attorney fees when they complete all enforcement mechanisms, such as selling off a horse. In this case, no lien sale ever occurred because the court allowed the boarder to remove his horses on a specified date.

    Court Response: Wrong. The court found that this statute allows a stable to recover fees incurred while attempting to enforce the lien, regardless of whether the stable concludes a sale of the horses for non-payment.

Lessons Learned - Avoiding Disputes

In this case, the boarder challenged the quality of care his horses received, but the stable disagreed and insisted on payment. While contracts cannot prevent all disputes from occurring, they can potentially narrow them. For example:

Boarders who want to confirm details about the stable’s care (such as number of times the horse will be fed and watered each day, amount of feed, amount of pasture turnout, individual or group pasture, how emergencies will be handled, and more) can insist that the boarding contract include these details. Boarders might also want the contract to address how the arrangement can be terminated. 

Stables can describe in their boarding contracts the services they will provide for the boarder’s horse. As to payment, the contract can cover due dates, late payment fees (where allowed by law), interest on unpaid balances, and recovery of attorney fees. 

Boarders and stables would be wise to examine the applicable state law regarding stablemen’s liens (sometimes called “agister’s liens”). Here’s a link to an article on stablemen’s liens that Julie Fershtman wrote a few years ago. Also, here’s a link to a website that lists several of these statutes. 

The case was: Grason v. Lovegove, 2014 Ill. App. Unpub. LEXIS 2578 (11/20/2014).

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

Categories: Boarding, Contracts

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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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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 

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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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