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Does Your Boarding Contract Include a Release? Should It?

For years, we have written about the importance of liability releases used by horse owners, instructors, trainers, stables, and others in the equine industry. Stables that use boarding contracts without proper release clauses could be missing a valuable opportunity to manage their risks. Two cases help illustrate why.

The Tennessee Case

In a 2008 Tennessee case, the plaintiff boarded her Tennessee Walking Horse mare with a trainer and signed a boarding contract that included a release of liability pertaining to the boarded horse. Later, her horse was killed in a hot walker accident. She sued the stable and challenged its release as being unenforceable. The trial court dismissed her lawsuit, and the appellate court agreed. It found that public policy in Tennessee did not forbid boarding stables from using liability releases. Finally, dismissing the plaintiff's claims of gross negligence and reckless conduct, the court noted that she may have produced evidence that the hot walker was a “dangerous instrumentality," but she still failed to prove the stable was liable. The case was dismissed.

The case was Thrasher v. Riverbend Stables, LLC.

The Ohio Case

In a 2008 Ohio case, a broodmare owner signed the stable's boarding contract that included a clause where he released the stable from liability for death or injury suffered by “any horse.” The mare later delivered a foal that died under the stable's care. He sued the stable for negligence, breach of bailment, and breach of contract. The court dismissed the case, rejecting the argument that the contract applied to the broodmare and not the foal. The court of appeals agreed that the case was properly dismissed on the strength of the release clause. 

The case was Slowey v. Midland Acres, Inc.

Conclusion

Keep in mind that states differ in their willingness to enforce waiver/release clauses. Also, releases are not a substitute for liability insurance; people who sign releases can, and sometimes do, file lawsuits. Whether you are the stable or the customer, direct your questions regarding releases and boarding contracts to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Boarding, Contracts

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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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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 

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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.

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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. 

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