New Year's Resolutions for the Equine Industry
Planning ahead for a successful 2018? You might define “success” as great progress in your showing, breeding, training, racing, and riding. The fact is, however, that people in the horse industry still rely on handshake deals and incomplete contracts when they buy, sell, lease, board, train, haul, breed, and give instruction to others.
With the new year, resolve to protect yourself. Here are a few suggestions.
Be Cautious About Using Standardized Contracts
Standardized, "one-size-fits-all" form contracts are quick and inexpensive. People often share them online. However, they run a serious risk of including illegal or unenforceable provisions or failing to comply with unique provisions that the applicable state's law requires. For example, many of the 48 state equine activity liability acts (as of December 2017) require equine professionals, equine activity sponsors, and possibly others to include special “warning” or other language in certain contracts. These requirements differ from state to state. In a few states, the laws specify that those who fail to comply with these requirements can lose any liability limitation benefits from the law.
Also, states differ as to what language can make a liability waiver/release enforceable. (A small number of states will not enforce them.) The same contract language that one state may enforce could fail in another state. Evaluating these state-by-state differences usually requires a review of ever-changing court rulings. For the best protection, retain knowledgeable counsel to help you comply with applicable requirements.
Read and Comply With Applicable Equine Activity Liability Acts
Now is the time to review the equine activity liability laws in effect where you reside or do business. Of the 48 states with some form of an equine activity liability act (as of December 2017, all states except California and Maryland have one) pay special attention to these:
- Many of these laws have contract language and sign posting requirements, usually directed at equine professionals and equine activity sponsors. They all differ.
- Most of these laws list exceptions to the immunities, and these exceptions could provide grounds for a lawsuit. If you allow others to ride or handle your horses or if you allow people to bring horses onto your property, take a look at the “providing an equine horse and failing to make reasonable and prudent efforts” exception, the “faulty tack or equipment” exception, and the “dangerous latent condition of the land” exception, all of which are found in several equine activity liability laws.
Use Written Contracts
Some state laws may actually require contracts in certain equine-related transactions. Equine activity liability acts in Arizona and Virginia, for example, have language requiring written contracts and releases, even offering some language, to benefit from immunities. Equine sales statutes in California, Florida, and Kentucky require contracts that include certain language.
Carefully-written contracts can help avoid disputes and save money. In leases, for example, questions sometimes involve: Was the arrangement a sale, a lease? Were promises made regarding the horse's disposition or training? Who pays the vet bills if the leased horse develops a serious condition during the lease that the lessee did not cause? Does the lessee have recourse against the lessor if the horse injures him or her during the lease? These issues could lead to costly, burdensome, and inconvenient legal disputes. A carefully-worded agreement can help avoid them.
Remember that Laws Change
Laws affecting you may have changed without your knowledge. More recently, equine activity liability laws have been amended in Iowa and Texas (in 2011), Michigan (in 2015), North Carolina (in 2013), and Virginia (in 2008). A useful website that offers links to equine and animal-related laws, and updates them regularly, is www.animallaw.info.
Make 2018 a year of attention to legal matters. Stay safe and protect yourself.
This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.
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
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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