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What You Didn’t Know About Liability Releases

Liability releases are probably the most misunderstood documents in the horse industry. Myths and misunderstandings surround them. Let’s explore common misperceptions regarding releases and the facts.

MYTH – It’s illegal for a person to release away another’s negligence.

In most states, courts have shown a willingness to enforce a release where the signer has waived another’s liability for ordinary negligence. This occurs if the court finds that the release was properly worded and signed. Even though you believe your release is properly worded and signed, there’s never a guarantee that a court will enforce your release and dismiss a claim against you.

MYTH – It’s illegal for a person to release away a claim under a state equine activity liability act.

Courts across the country disagree on this issue. Some have enforced releases where the signer waives liability under a state equine activity liability act and, in the process, have dismissed lawsuits. A small number of courts have not.

MYTH – A release that is valid in one state is valid in all others.

Because states sometimes have unique requirements for language that a release should include, one size usually does not fit all. One example is that state equine activity liability acts (now found in 46 states) often include extra requirements for releases of liability. Equine activity liability laws in Virginia and Arizona, to name two, contemplate the use of releases and specify a few additional requirements for them.

MYTH – A posted warning sign is the same as a release.

As this author has written over the years, a warning sign is not a release. People frequently deny having read warning signs, and a sign is not the same as a document where the signer acknowledges risks and specifically agrees to release certain claims against others.

MYTH – A parent can sign a release that waives his or her child’s claims.

Nationwide, states differ as to whether a parent can sign a release that waives a child’s claims. Some states, like Colorado, allow it while other states, like Michigan, make these releases voidable.

Releases are very important documents for equine professionals and businesses. Don’t take chances with them. Direct your questions to a knowledgeable attorney.

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 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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