Michigan Stable's Release Within Its Boarding Contract Helps Secure Dismissal of Lawsuit
Imagine owning a boarding stable that had a barn fire, causing loss to some of the horses. Imagine later being sued from a disgruntled boarder whose horse perished in the fire. This happened to a Michigan stable, and the stable faced an aggressive legal challenge from the boarder. In the end, the trial court dismissed the case and the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal in 2014. Why did the stable win? The liability release in its boarding contract played an important part of this result.
The defendant stable's boarding contract contained a liability release clause that was specifically related to the boarded horse. It stated, in part:
Owner also agrees to release and hold harmless [names withheld], and their employees, agents, representatives, heirs, assigns, affiliated persons, and others acting on their behalf from liability for any and all injuries, damages, or losses that Owner's horse(s) may sustain arising out of the boarding or keeping at Stable that may accrue from any cause whatsoever, including fire, theft, running away, accidents, illness, or injuries during the term of this Agreement and while horse(s) is/are in Stable's care, custody, or control (except if directly caused by Stable's gross negligence or wanton and willful misconduct).
On appeal, the Michigan Court of Appeals found this clause to be enforceable and dismissed the lawsuit. In doing so, the court found that the plaintiff horse owner presented insufficient evidence of “gross negligence” on the stable's part because, under Michigan law, "gross negligence" required proof of "conduct so reckless that it demonstrates a substantial lack of concern with regard to whether an injury will result." By comparison, the court cited evidence that the barn fire was most likely accidental and caused by "spontaneous heating of . . . hay.” Evidence also showed that the stable took quick action upon discovering the fire and saved many of the horses. In addition, the court found that the plaintiff boarder presented no evidence of "wanton and willful” misconduct because, by law, that would "represent an even higher standard for a plaintiff to overcome."
Risk Management for the Boarding Stable
In this case, the boarding stable was able to defeat the lawsuit because of its carefully worded liability release. Stables would be wise to include liability releases within their boarding contracts (where allowed by law). Also, stables seeking insurance coverage for claims involving injury or loss of boarded horses can also consider purchasing "care, custody, or control" insurance coverage.
The case was: Nagler v. Hunt, Michigan Court of Appeals Case No. 314014 (3/13/2014).
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 ›
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.
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.
Follow Us on Twitter!
Follow us for updates regarding news, cases, disputes, and issues regarding Equine Law. @horselawyers