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Michigan’s Equine Activity Liability Act Amended to Remove “Negligence” Exception for Professionals and Sponsors

On June 23, 2015, Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law an amendment to Michigan’s Equine Activity Liability Act (“EALA”).  The law was amended by Public Act 87 of 2015.  You can find it here. 

The Law Before Amendment

The new amendment targets a portion of Michigan’s EALA involving its exceptions –sections of the law on which people can file equine-related personal injury lawsuits. As enacted in 1994, Michigan’s EALA included four exceptions:

  • providing “faulty tack or equipment.”
  • providing an equine and “failing to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity.”
  • “dangerous latent conditions” of land where an equine activity takes place “for which warning signs are not conspicuously posted.”
  • An “equine activity sponsor,” “equine professional” or “another person” “[c]ommits a negligent act or omission that constitutes a proximate cause of the injury, death, or damage.” This section of the Act was just amended.

In the years that followed passage of Michigan’s EALA, the legal profession and the equine industry debated the existence and purpose of this “negligence” exception in the law. Julie Fershtman’s article in the December 2013 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal detailed her concerns that it rendered Michigan’s EALA less effective. Here’s a link to the article.

The Amendment

Michigan’s amended law, Public Act 87 of 2015, changes the Michigan EALA’s last exception by modifying its terms, breaking it into two sections, and eliminating the “negligence” exception for certain people, organizations, and businesses. Its modifications to Section 5 (MCL §691.1665) of the law are:

(d) If the person is an equine activity sponsor or equine professional, commits an act or omission that constitutes a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant, and that is a proximate cause of the injury, death, or damage.

(e) If the person is not an equine activity sponsor or equine professional, commits a negligent act or omission that constitutes a proximate cause of the injury, death, or damage.

Those who qualify as “equine activity sponsors” and “equine professionals” under the Michigan EALA stand to benefit from the amended law since the amended law generally allows “participants” in “equine activities” fewer options for lawsuits. As defined in Michigan’s EALA, an “equine activity sponsor,” means “an individual, group, club, partnership, or corporation, whether or not operating for profit, that sponsors, organizes, or provides the facilities for an equine activity, including, but not limited to, a pony club; 4-H club; hunt club; riding club; school- or college-sponsored class, program, or activity; therapeutic riding program; stable or farm owner; and operator, instructor, or promoter of an equine facility including, but not limited to, a stable, clubhouse, pony ride string, fair, or arena at which the equine activity is held.”

Equine professional” under Michigan’s EALA means “a person engaged in any of the following for compensation: (i) Instructing a participant in an equine activity. (ii) Renting an equine, equipment, or tack to a participant. (iii) Providing daily care of horses boarded at an equine facility. (iv) Training an equine. (v) Breeding of equines for resale or stock replenishment.

Conclusion

Michigan’s amended EALA does not eliminate the need for liability insurance. Please remember that all Equine Activity Liability Acts differ. Read the laws in effect where you live or do business. Direct your questions to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Liability, News & Events

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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.

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has recieved 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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