Recent Court Case is a Reminder for Owners of Insured Horses
The importance of complying with an insurance policy’s notice requirements has become especially newsworthy thanks to Julie Fershtman’s courtroom victory last year in an equine insurance coverage lawsuit in an Illinois federal court. In that case, a horse owner sued the company challenging its denial of benefits under an equine insurance policy.
The case involved a hunter/jumper show horse that was insured under a policy of equine mortality insurance. While under a lease arrangement to a trainer, the horse sustained an injury, but 15 days passed before anybody notified the insurer. By then, the horse’s condition had worsened to the point where the owner’s veterinarian recommended euthanasia. The owner arranged to have the horse euthanized and then submitted a claim for insurance benefits.
In response to the claim, the insurer conducted an extensive investigation and thereafter denied coverage. It believed that the owner failed to satisfy conditions in the policy, one requiring that the owner give the insurer “immediate notice” of the horse’s illness, injury or lameness. The owner, argued, among other things, that he was unaware of his horse’s lameness problem because the horse was under a lease and out of state. Rejecting that argument, the Court cited policy language that the notice condition applied “whether you have personal knowledge of such circumstances or events or such knowledge is confined to your family members, representatives, agents, veterinarians, employees, bailees, co-owners or other persons who have care, custody or control of [the insured horse] at any time."
As a result, the court sided for the insurer and dismissed the case. It found that the owner’s 15-day delay before notifying the insurer of the horse’s lameness was not "immediate notice" as the policy required, and the horse owner could not recover under the policy as a result.
Here are a few suggestions for avoiding disputes with your insurer:
- Read Your Policy. Since notice requirements can vary from company to company, read your equine insurance policy carefully so that you know when the insurer expects you to give notice of your horse’s illness, lameness, or injury, and to whom the notice should be directed.
- Direct the Notice Call Properly. Your policy, or information provided with it, will specify the name and phone number of the person or company that your insurer designates to receive notice. The agent who sold you the policy may not be the right one to call. Giving notice to the wrong person could potentially be treated as giving no notice at all.
- Keep - and Share - Your Insurer’s Notice Contact Information. Insurers often send, along with their insurance policies, handy cards that provide the designated (800) number to call to notify the insurer. Keep the information in your purse or wallet and share the information with others who are caring for your horse such as the trainer and boarding stable.
- Equine Professionals: Encourage Your Clients to Share and Update Insurance Information. If an insured horse's condition takes a turn for the worse, and if the owner cannot be reached, horse trainers and boarding stable management might need to contact the insurer on the owner’s behalf. With that in mind, encourage your clients to provide the most updated (800) emergency contact numbers for each horse's insurer.
Insured horses are the subject of a contract that requires special attention and action, such as notifying the insurer if the horse becomes injured or ill. Your compliance will help avoid disputes.
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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Upcoming Speaking Engagements
In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:
- American Horse Council Annual Meeting and National Issues Forum, Washington D.C. - June 6, 2022
- National Conference on Equine Law, Lexington, Kentucky – May 4, 2022
- IRMI Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”), Sacramento, California – March 8, 2022
- New York State Bar Association Equine Law Symposium (virtual conference) – February 9, 2022
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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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