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Unbounded Risk in Open Range Districts

Driving along a highway at night, motorists don’t expect to see herds of cattle or horses. In designated “open range” districts, however, these animals could potentially cross the road in the day or night. So what happens when motorists collide with horses or livestock in open range districts?

Open Range Laws

Nationwide, most states are NOT open range states, and horse owners are required to reasonably secure them in barns and pastures to keep them off of roadways. A few states, that include (but are not limited to) Nevada, Montana, Texas, and Idaho, allow livestock owners to allow them to roam unfenced, with some restrictions. For example, Nevada Revised Statutes Sec. 568.355 defines “open range” as “all unenclosed land outside of cities and towns upon which cattle, sheep or other domestic animals by custom, license, lease or permit are grazed or permitted to roam.” This state’s law, Nevada Revised Statutes Sec. 568.360, addresses liabilities of animal owners:

1. No person, firm or corporation owning, controlling or in possession of any domestic animal running on open range has the duty to keep the animal off any highway traversing or located on the open range, and no such person, firm or corporation is liable for damages to any property or for injury to any person caused by any collision between a motor vehicle and the animal occurring on such a highway.

2. Any person, firm or corporation negligently allowing a domestic animal to enter within a fenced right-of-way of a highway is liable for damages caused by a collision between a motor vehicle and the animal occurring on the highway.

Emphasis added.

Liabilities

Courts have found that motorists who collide with loose livestock in designated open range areas may not have recourse against animal owners, with few exceptions. In a Wyoming case, for example, the plaintiffs’ vehicles collided with loose cattle at night on an unfenced public highway that was located in a posted “open range” district. The motorists sued. Holding that the litigation against the animal owners was properly dismissed, the Wyoming Supreme Court held that Wyoming law “does not require a livestock owner to prevent livestock from wandering onto public highways so long as the area is posted as open range.” [Case: Anderson v. Two Dot Ranch, 49 P.3d 1011 (Wyo. 2002).]

In Louisiana, a motorist struck a cow on the road and sued the cow’s owner for damages. The trial court judge ruled for the cow owner, but an appeal followed. The appellate court found that the collision occurred in an “open range” area so such the defendant cow owner had no duty to confine his cow and was not liable to the motorist. [Case: Willis v. Cloud, 758 So.2d 835, 837 (La. App. 2000).]

For More Information

For more information, please visit this blog’s previous posts regarding liabilities for loose horses, including here and here.

Please keep in mind that exceptions could exist depending on the facts and the applicable state law. Read every statute and ordinance carefully and consult with legal counsel when questions arise.

Categories: Liability, Zoning & Land Use

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four 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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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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 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 

Some of our Equine Law Services

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 a wide variety of equine-related 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, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) 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 directly.

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