Loose Horse Liabilities
When a horse escapes and collide with a car, legal battles can follow.
Loose Horse Laws
Laws associated with loose horses generally fall into these categories:
In many states, a person injured from a loose horse must prove that the horse’s owner or keeper was negligent in causing its escape. Examples include:
- Improper fencing.
- Open or inadequate gates.
- History of horses escaping, which the stable knew but failed to better respond.
Open Range Districts
A small number of states have “open range laws” or “open range districts” where livestock can wander freely without fences and motorists are cautioned with signs. If a collision occurs, motorists have little or no recourse.
“Strict Liability” Laws
A few states have “strict liability” laws that could make the horse owner or keeper automatically responsible for property damages (such as damage to the car) and sometimes even personal injuries.
In some states, owners or keepers of loose livestock could face fines and/or imprisonment. In a 1994 California case, a stable faced charges of manslaughter when a loose horse killed a motorist because the pasture was in poor condition and horses had escaped before.
Possible defenses include:
- The horses were properly restrained.
- Someone else, such as a vandal, tampered with the fence and caused the escape.
- The one sued, such as the horse owner, had no control over the way the horse was restrained.
Claims of the Horse Owner
Sometimes, the horse’s owner has a case against the driver that injures or kills the horse. In a Nebraska case, the horse owner successfully sued the driver of a vehicle that broke the fence and allowed the horse to escape as well as the driver that killed the horse.
Ideas for avoiding liability include:
- Follow fencing laws.
- Inspect and repair fences, gates, and stall latches.
- Buy proper liability insurance.
Julie 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 www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
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"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee
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"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership
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"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association
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"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association
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