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. 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 this week 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
Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.
On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit www.ayhc.com/.
On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit www.miequine.com/.
RECENT EQUINE LAW COURTROOM VICTORY
We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.
"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013
Win Equine law Books!
We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit www.equinelaw.net and www.equinelaw.info or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]
Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry
We applaud the American Horse Council (www.horsecouncil.org) for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.
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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