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Liability Releases and Equine Activity Liability Acts: Utah's Highest Court Addresses How One Affects the Other

Since the equine activity liability acts were enacted, a question has arisen as to whether a person can legally sign away claims under them. According to the majority of courts across the country addressing the issue, the answer is "yes."

Last year, Utah's Supreme Court issued an opinion that releases can waive liabilities under Utah’s Limitations on Liability for Equine and Livestock Activities Act (Utah's version of an Equine Activity Liability Act). In that case, the plaintiff was a guest at a resort and signed its release of liability before taking part in a guided horseback ride. During the ride, her assigned trail horse suddenly sped up, and she fell and became injured. She sued the resort. The trial court held that the release was valid and enforceable, resulting in dismissal of all claims except for the gross negligence claims. The appellate court agreed, concluding that “neither the [equine activity liability act] nor public policy invalidates pre-injury releases for horseback riding.” The case then proceeded to the Utah Supreme Court. It observed that “[n]owhere does the text suggest that [equine sponsors] may not contractually further limit their liability for risks that are not inherent’ to equine activities.” It also noted that the statute’s “warning” notice requirement requires equine activity sponsors to place warnings on posted signs or “providing a document or release for the participant . . . to sign.” The Court ruled that pre-injury releases of claims under Utah’s Equine and Livestock Activities Act did not violate public policy, subject to limited exceptions.

The case is Penunuri v. Sundance Partners, Ltd., 301 P.3d 984 (Utah 2013),


Because courts in most states across the country have shown a willingness to enforce liability waivers/releases when they are properly worded and signed, we always suggest that you have a knowledgeable lawyer draft or review your documents.

Categories: Liability

Photo of Julie I. 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 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 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.

Honors & Recognitions

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

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


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.

Other Articles

"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013

Win Equine law Books!

We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit and or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]

Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry

We applaud the American Horse Council ( for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.


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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