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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:

Negligence

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.

Criminal Penalties

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.

Defenses

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.

Avoiding Liability

Ideas for avoiding liability include:

  • Follow fencing laws.
  • Inspect and repair fences, gates, and stall latches.
  • Buy proper liability insurance.

Categories: Insurance, Liability

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman
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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 

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. 

THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER

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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