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. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four 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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Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award
Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.
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In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:
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- National Conference on Equine Law, Lexington, Kentucky – May 4, 2022
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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award
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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.
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
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"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association
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Litigating a wide variety of equine-related disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).
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