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Do You Need a Liability Release?

Your facility posts “warning” signs, and your state has enacted an equine activity liability law.  Do these make liability waivers/releases unnecessary?

The Difference Between a Sign and a Release

Important differences exist between “ride at your own risk” sign and a release of liability that is legally valid, well-written, and properly signed.  Certainly, the sign may announce the facility’s interest in limiting its liability, but it is rarely enough to fend off a lawsuit when something goes wrong.  Also, my many years of handling equine-related injury cases around the country tells me that after an incident arises, the injured person will often deny ever seeing or reading the sign.

By comparison, a release of liability is an indication in writing that the visitor or customer has read, understood, and agreed to accept the facility’s policy of limiting its liability (where allowed by law).  Also, as discussed below, releases offer an excellent opportunity to educate the signer about risks and more.

The Difference Between an Equine Activity Liability Law and a Release

If you live or do business in one of the 46 states (as of June 2011) with an equine activity liability law on the books, you may have a powerful protection against liability for certain kinds of equine activities.  However, these laws were not designed to permanently end all liability in the horse industry.  Because no “zero liability” laws exist, a written release of liability (where allowed by law) is an extra attempt to avoid liability.  Keep in mind that even the best release will not protect you against all types of lawsuits, and there is never a guarantee that a court will enforce your release.

Extra Benefits of a Release of Liability

A well-written release of liability can offer many benefits.  Here are a few.

  • Recite Risks.  The release can ask the customer, visitor, or guest to recognize the many inherent risks horses can present.
  • Headgear Warning.  The release can advise people about ASTM-standard/SEI-certified equestrian helmets.
  • Health Insurance.  A small number of equine facilities have policies requiring customers or guests to maintain their own medical insurance.  For these facilities, the release can make the information part of a binding contract, not just a policy.
  • Equine Activity Liability Act “Warning” Notices.  Most states with equine activity liability laws require certain persons and business – usually, but not always, “equine professionals” and “equine activity sponsors” – to include warning notices or other language within their contracts and releases.  Equine activity liability laws in a small number of states indicate that those who fail to follow these requirements could lose the benefit of immunities in their laws.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please give me a call or send me an email.

Categories: Liability

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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.

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Contact Us - Julie Fershtman

"Julie Fershtman is considered by many to be the nation's leading expert on equine activity liability acts. Her 30-minute presentation for a recent educational webinar on equine activity liability acts for the American Horse Council is available for viewing. Please take a look, here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCROISSPMJs

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

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. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

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.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Equine Blog Ranked in Feedspot

Foster Swift's Equine Law Blog was ranked #8 in Feedspot.com's "15 Best Equine Law Blogs and Websites".

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second 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.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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 

Some of our Equine Law Services

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 a wide variety of equine-related 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, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) 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 directly.

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