New Jersey Court Dismisses Lawsuit against Stable Brought by Injured Visitor
Injured Child Visiting Stable with Family Was Still a “Participant” Under Equine Activity Liability Law
As of January 30, 2017, 47 states – all but California, Maryland, and New York – have passed some form of an Equine Activity Liability Act (“EALA”). These laws sometimes share common characteristics, but all of them differ. Most follow a pattern that prevents an “equine activity sponsor,” “equine professional,” or possibly others from being sued if a “participant” who “engages in an equine activity” suffers injury, death or damage from an “inherent risk.”
Lawsuits sometimes focus on whether an injured visitor at a stable or event qualifies as an “equine activity participant” and whether that person’s case is properly dismissed based on immunities in a state EALA. On January 9, 2017, the New Jersey Court of Appeals looked at the issue of whether that state’s EALA – called the Equestrian Activities Liability Act, N.J.S.A. 5:15 1 to 12 – applied to a minor who accompanied family members to a horse stable but took no part in any horse-related activities there. The plaintiff in that case was a nine year-old boy who joined his mother and older sister at a stable. On the day of the incident, he was not riding or handling a horse. As he walked down a barn aisle, a horse in one of the stalls reached out its head and bit him, causing injuries. His mother, at the time, was cleaning a horse stall nearby.
For the law to apply, the plaintiff needed to qualify as a “participant.” That law defined a “participant” as:
any person, whether an amateur or professional, engaging in an equine animal activity, whether or not a fee is paid to engage in the equine animal activity or, if a minor, the natural guardian, or trainer of that person standing in loco parentis, and shall include anyone accompanying the participant, or any person coming onto the property of the provider of equine animal activities or equestrian area whether or not an invitee or person pays consideration.
Emphasis added. Although New Jersey’s EALA states that “participants” and “spectators” assume the risk of equine animal activities [N.J.S.A. 5:15-3], it also states, in part:
The assumption of risk set forth in . . . this act shall be a complete bar of suit and shall serve as a complete defense to a suit against an operator by a participant for injuries resulting from the assumed risv ks, notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1973, c. 146 (C.2A:15-5.1 et seq.) relating to comparative negligence. . . .
Emphasis added. Although the plaintiff argued that the EALA’s immunities were inapplicable to him because he was not there for “equine-related purposes,” the Court rejected this because the EALA defined “participant” to extend to people “accompanying” the participant. That day, his mother and older sister were “participants” because his mother gave a riding lesson and cleaned her horse’s stall, and his sister fed horses. As a result, the Court ruled that the boy was a “participant,” as well, and his lawsuit against the stable was properly dismissed.
The case was: Kirkpatrick v. Hidden View Farm, New Jersey Court of Appeals, 1/9/2017.
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 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.
Follow Us on Twitter!
Follow us for updates regarding news, cases, disputes, and issues regarding Equine Law. @horselawyers