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Can You Release Away An Equine Activity Liability Act Claim?

In April 2015, Julie Fershtman travels across the country for two speaking engagements regarding the Equine Activity Liability Acts (“EALAs”), including the National Conference on Equine Law. A lawyer with hands-on experience involving these laws nationwide, Julie will discuss recurring issues. Forty-six states now have some form of an EALA (except for California, Maryland, Nevada and New York).

One recurring issue is whether an injured person’s claims under an EALA can be released away. The majority view is that waivers/releases can potentially bar EALA claims. Courts in these states (as of 3/2015) have issued rulings to this effect:

  • Utah
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Ohio
  • Minnesota
  • Michigan
  • Florida
  • Massachusetts
  • Wyoming

For example, a Florida court stated:

There is usually much to discuss regarding a participant’s ‘ability’ and the ‘particular equine’ matched to the ability. It is not in this instance because the release and indemnity agreement, independent of the statutory provisions of Chapter 773 [Florida’s EALA], eliminated Disney’s liability for a negligent act, if any occurred. Nothing appears in Chapter 773 or its history that would restrict an equine professional from obtaining a release and indemnity agreement in order to eliminate liability that would survive the limitations of Chapter 773. The language of the exceptions to the limitations of liability found in Section 773.03 does not specifically state or even suggest that the body of law allowing one to obtain a release and indemnity agreement would be ineffective in extinguishing potential liability.

Emphasis added. [The case was: Raveson v. Walt Disney World, 793 So.2d 1171 (Fla. App. 2001).]

The minority view adopted by other states is that EALA claims cannot be released. Courts in these states (as of 3/2015) have prevented a release from dismissing a plaintiff’s claims based on a state EALA:

  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • Tennessee

Conclusion

Courts in most states have shown a willingness to enforce liability waivers/releases if the court is convinced that the documents were properly worded and signed. There is never a guarantee that a court will enforce your document. For this reason, we suggest that you have a knowledgeable lawyer draft or review your documents and that you have proper liability insurance in place for your equine facilities and activities.

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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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.

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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