Equine Liability: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Allison v. Johnson 2001 WL 589384 (Ohio 2001)

Appellant was injured by appellee’s horse when appellant was standing outside a horse arena waiting for the appellee.   The horse began to shuffle backwards and backed into a gate, which popped out of a bracket and struck the appellant in the face.   The trial court found and the court of appeals upheld the finding that the appellant was an “equine activity participant” because she was a spectator to the “normal daily care of an equine.” In addition, the appellee was determined to be an “equine activity sponsor” due to the fact that he was an “operator” of a stable where the equine activity occurred.   Thus, the equine immunity statute of Ohio is applicable to the appellee.

Amburgey v. Sauder 605 N.W.2d 84 (Mich. 1999)

Plaintiff was bitten by a horse as she walked through a stable.   The court determined that Plaintiff was a “participant” for the purposes of the Equine Activity Liability Act (EALA), and thus the Defendant stables owner was insulated from liability arising out of the unanticipated, abnormal behavior of the horse.

Applbaum v. Golden Acres Farm and Ranch 333 F. Supp. 2d 31 (N.D. N.Y. 2004)

Minor child fell off of a horse while horseback riding at a resort ranch and sustained severe injuries.  Parents of the minor child brought a personal injury claim against the stable and the stable moved for summary judgment.  The trial court precluded summary judgment due to the existence of genuine issues of material fact relating the parent's assumption of the risk.

Baker v. McIntosh 132 S.W.3d 230 (Ky. 2004)

Visitor to horse farm brought action for negligence when he was injured by owners colt.  Held:  the owner had no duty to prevent the colt from falling against the trailer door, nor did he have a duty to warn the visitor of the potential for such an accident to occur.

Balen v. Peltier (NOTICE: THIS OPINION IS DESIGNATED AS UNPUBLISHED AND MAY NOT BE CITED EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY MINN. ST. SEC. 480A.08(3). 2006 WL 163518 (Minn.App.2006)

Plaintiff sued defendant for injuries she received after being thrown from defendant’s horse. Specifically, plaintiff argued that defendant knew or should have known of the horse’s “hazardous propensities” and therefore had a duty to protect plaintiff. In finding that there existed no special relationship between the parties to impart a duty to defendant, defendant’s motion for summary judgment was affirmed.

Beckwith v. Weber 277 P.3d 713 (Wyo. 2012)

While on vacation at a ranch in Wyoming, plaintiff was thrown or fell from a horse that stepped in a large badger hole. Allegedly, the trail guide left the plaintiff and her husband at the scene in order to get help. Worried about potential wildlife attacks, the plaintiff and her husband walked to a nearby residence for assistance. The plaintiff later brought a negligence suit against the ranch for injuries she had sustained during the fall. At trial, the jury verdict stated the plaintiff had assumed the risk and the plaintiff was therefore not entitled to damages. On appeal, the plaintiff challenged a jury instruction and asserted the trial court abused its discretion when it awarded costs to the ranch. The plaintiff did not prevail on either claim.

Burns v. Leap 645 S.E.2d 751 (Ga.App., 2007)

In this Georgia case, the plaintiff-invitee was knocked into a barbed wire fence by horse that was being boarded by the property owner, suffering injuries as a result. The Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court's order of summary judgment, finding that, under dangerous-animal statute, the property owner did not know of any vicious propensity on part of horse. Further, the invitee failed to show that horse had a vicious propensity and therefore could not prevail on premises-liability claim.

Carl v. Resnick 714 N.E.2d 1 (Ill. 1999)

In this Illinois case, plaintiff Judy Carl was riding her horse on a trail in the Cook County Forest Preserve when the horse upon which defendant was riding pinned its ears back, turned its body toward plaintiff's horse, and kicked plaintiff and her horse. One hoof struck plaintiff's leg, causing her injury.  In interpreting the state's Equine Act, the court observed that plaintiff's complaint against defendant was not barred by the Equine Act unless plaintiff's recreational riding of her own horse on a public trail was one of the limited activities sought to be encouraged by the Act.  After determining that there was no conflict between the Illinois EALA and Animal Control Act, the court reversed the trial court's order denying plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and entered summary judgment for plaintiff on Count I as to liability under the Animal Control Act (510 ILCS 5/16 (West 1995)).

Clyncke v. Waneka 157 P.3d 1072 (Colo. 2007)

In this Colorado case, an inexperienced horse rider who was injured in fall from horse during a horse roundup, brought an action under the Colorado Equine Activities Statute against the owners of riding stable. The lower court, after a jury trial, entered a judgment for the stable owners. On appeal at the Supreme Court, the Court found that the Equine Statute places a two-pronged duty on sponsors; a sponsor is liable when he or she fails to make reasonable efforts to determine either a participant's ability to engage in the equine activity or a participant's ability to manage a particular horse. Here, a new trial was in order because the result may have been different if court had properly instructed the jury regarding the exception from civil liability for the sponsor.

Cole v. Ladbroke Racing Michigan, Inc. 614 N.W.2d 169 (Mich. 2000)

Plaintiff, a licensed horse exercise rider sued the operator of a horse racing facility after he had been injured when he was thrown off a horse that he had been exercising, when the horse became spooked by a kite on the Defendant’s premises.   The court determined that the Equine Activity Liability Act (EALA) did not offer protection of immunity to the Defendant because the exercising was found to be an activity in preparation for a horse race and the EALA does not apply to “horse race meetings.”   However, the Plaintiff had previously signed a release, which covered “all risks of any injury that the undersigned may sustain while on the premises,” therefore, the Defendant was released from liability of negligence.

Courbat v. Dahana Ranch, Inc. 141 P.3d 427 (Hawai'i, 2006)

The cases concerns personal injuries sustained by one of the plaintiffs (Lisa) while she and her husband were on a horseback riding tour on the Dahana Ranch on the Big Island of Hawai'i. Prior to taking the ride, they signed waivers. The Courbats do not dispute that they both signed the Ranch's waiver form; rather, they assert that the Ranch's practice of booking ride reservations through an activity company, receiving payment prior to the arrival of the guest, and then, upon the guest's arrival at the Ranch, requiring the guest to sign a liability waiver as a precondition to horseback riding is an unfair and deceptive business practice. The question whether a waiver requirement would be materially important in booking a horseback tour remains one for the trier of fact. Because a genuine issue of material fact, resolvable only by the trier of fact, remains in dispute, the grant of summary judgment on the claim was erroneous the court held.

Dodge v. Durdin 187 S.W.3d 523 (Tex. App.-Hous. (1 Dist.), 2005)

 Employee brought a negligence action against employer for injuries suffered when administering medicine to an untamed horse.  District Court granted summary judgment stating that the plaintiff was considered a "participant" under the Equine Act.  Plaintiff appealed.  Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case stating that the Equine Act did not apply because the Act covered consumers, not employees. 

DOYLE v DEPUTY SHERIFF'S 758 N.Y.S.2d 791 (N.Y.Sup. 2003)

In this New York case, a minor child was injured when he was kicked by defendant's horse while defendant was in the process of the setting up a petting zoo at a picnic. The court was posed with the question of whether limited circumstances exist to support a negligence claim where a person is injured by a domestic animal and there is no proof of the animal's vicious propensities (the pony in this case never kicked anyone or showed any vicious propensities). The court answered the question in the affirmative. Here, defendant is subject to the enhanced duty of horse owners to young children. There were triable issues of fact as to defendant's negligence in the manner in which the horses were unloaded while in the presence of children that precluded summary judgment for defendant.

Eslin v. County of Suffolk 795 N.Y.S. 2d 349 (2005)

A woman was horseback riding at a ranch in New York and was injured when she fell off the horse. The woman had signed a Horse Rental Agreement and Liability Release Form before the accident.  The court determined that the rider assumed the risk of injury and the lower court's decision to deny defendant's motion for summary judgment was reversed. 

Florice v. Brown 679 So.2d 501 (La.App. 2 Cir. 8/21/96)

In this Louisiana case, an inexperienced rider was thrown from a horse and sued the horse's owner for negligence and strict liability. After the lower court dismissed the claim, the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, this court held that the horse did not pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the rider such as to warrant imposing strict liability on the owner. The court noted that not every risk of injury posed by an animal represents an unreasonable risk. Here, the evidence established that the horse had a gentle disposition and the movement that caused the plaintiff to be thrown was not unusual or aggressive behavior but rather was simply "horse-like behavior."

Gibson v. Donahue 722 N.E.2d 646(2002)

Plaintiff was injured when she was thrown from her horse while she was riding her horse in a city field.   Plaintiff sued Defendant for her injuries because she was thrown from her horse after the horse was startled by the Defendant’s dogs, which were chasing the horse.   The Defendant claimed that she was immune from liability under Ohio’s Equine Activity Liability Act.   However, in this case of first impression, the court found that the EALA did not apply to Defendant because Plaintiff was not engaged in an “equine activity” at the time of the injury and the statute is not meant to apply to all third parties involved in an accident in which an equine was present.

Kangas v. Perry 620 N.W.2d 429 (Wis. 2000)

Plaintiff, a passenger of a horse-drawn sled sued the owner of the property on which the accident occurred, as well as the owner of the horses and the sled for the injuries she suffered when thrown from the sled.   The Court of Appeals found that the equine immunity statute provided protection for the owner of the horse against tort liability.   The plain language of the statute provides that immunity from civil liability is available to all persons , “ including an equine activity sponsor or equine professional…”; thus, protection is not limited only to those who are sponsors or professionals, rather they are examples of types of people to whom the statute applies.

Kinara v. Jamaica Bay Riding Academy, Inc. 783 N.Y.S.2d 636 (N.Y., 2004)

Plaintiff was kicked by a horse ridden by her friend while trail riding.  Plaintiff sued the Defendant who owned the horse and trail Plaintiff was riding on.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Defendant and the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision holding Plaintiff assumed the risk.

King v. CJM Country Stables 315 F.Supp.2d 1061 (D. Hawaii, 2004)

Horseback rider was bitten during a trail ride and brought suit in personal injury.  After removal to Federal Court, the Court held that Hawaii's recreational activity liability statute was applicable and that summary judgment was not appropriate.  Motion for summary judgment denied.

Kush v. Wentworth 790 N.E.2d 912 (Ill.App. 2003)

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant for violation of the Animal Control Act and alleged negligence due to the broken leg that the Plaintiff suffered after she was kicked by Defendant’s horse while trying to pass the horse on a group ride.   At the time of the accident, the defendant was neither an “equine activity sponsor” nor an “equine professional” according to the Act.   The issue was whether the Act applied only to those two groups of people, and the court held that the Act does not preclude negligence liability for persons other than equine activity sponsors and equine professionals.

Lessman v. Rhodes 721 N.E.2d 178(1999)

Plaintiff, a participant in a horse show, was injured when a stallion bucked and kicked him; he sued the show’s sponsor, and the stallion’s rider and owner alleging negligent and willful and wanton misconduct, by failing to conduct background checks into the horses and by failing to separate the stallions participating in the show, inter alia .   The Equine Activity Liability Act, which was established to shield those persons who participate in equine activities from liability, provides an exception to the general rule by permitting liability for equine activity sponsors that commit “an act or omission that constitutes willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant, and that act or omission caused the injury.”   In this case, the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that showed that the defendants behaved in a reckless or intentional manner, therefore the summary judgment in favor of the defendant entered by the trial court was founded to be proper.

Macho v. Mahowald 374 N.W.2d 312 (Minn.App.,1985)

In this Minnesota case, a rider brought an action for personal injuries suffered after the defendant-owner's horse bolted while the rider was mounting the horse. The lower court entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict for the owner. The rider appealed. The Court of Appeals held that evidence showing that the horse had previously bolted was sufficient to create an issue for the jury as to whether the horse had a propensity to be dangerous. Further, with regard to whether the owner was negligent in allowing the rider to mount without properly adjusting the saddle equipment, the court found that the jury could have properly found both parties were negligent in failing to adjust the stirrups.

McGraw v. R and R Investments, Ltd. 877 So.2d 886 (Fl. 2004)

Plaintiff was injured when she was thrown from defendant's horse.  The Circuit Court granted summary judgment for defendant and plaintiff appealed.  The District Court of Appeals held that, as a matter of first impression, the defendant's failure to provide the statutorily required notice warning of its non-liability for injuries resulting from an inherent risks of equine activities disqualified the defendant from statutory immunity from civil liability for the injuries.  Reversed and remanded.

Murrell v. Hooter 892 So.2d 680 (5th Cir., 2004)

A champion jumping horse was struck and killed by a van after escaping through an open gate.  The horse owner sued the property owners for negligence and the trial court granted defendants' summary judgment.  The Court of Appeals reversed the decision holding the defendants were not entitled to immunity under the Equine Immunity Statute.

Nigro v. New York Racing Ass'n, Inc. 93 A.D.3d 647 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept. 2012)

An experienced exercise rider sued the owner of a race track seeking damages for personal injury after the horse she was riding fell on her while crossing a gravel-strewn asphalt road. The Supreme Court held that the rider assumed the risk that the horse might fall by choosing to cross the road despite being aware of the danger. The doctrine of “primary assumption of the risk” applied, and the owner of the premises was not at fault.

People v. Peters 79 A.D.3d 1274(N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept.,2010)

A veterinarian was convicted of animal cruelty and sentenced to three years of probation based upon his alleged unjustifiable failure under Agriculture and Markets Law § 353 to provide a mare and her foal with necessary sustenance, food and drink in September 2005. After conviction by jury, the lower court denied defendant-veterinarian's motion to vacate judgment of conviction. The Supreme Court, Appellate Division found that while defendant failed to preserve his challenge for sufficiency of the evidence, the jury verdict was against the weight of the evidence. In particular, the court found that the expert testimony contradicted the evidence that the foal was mistreated.

Peterson v. Eichhorn 189 P.3d 615 (Mont., 2008)

In this Montana case, the plaintiff brought claims for negligence, strict liability for abnormally dangerous domestic animal, and punitive damages against the defendant horse owner. She alleged that defendant's horse bit her while she was on land defendant used for pasturing the horse that adjoined her land. After the lower court granted summary judgment to the defendant, the plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court held that even though the Montana Supreme Court has not adopted the provision of the Second Restatement of Torts regarding an animal owner's strict liability for injury caused by an abnormally dangerous domestic animal, this was not the test case to do it. The court found that Peterson failed to produce any evidence or legal authority that the horse's biting constituted a “dangerous propensity abnormal to her class” to bring her under the Restatement's strict liability.

Smith v. Lane 832 N.E.2d 947 (Ill.App. 5 Dist. 2005)

In this Illinois case, the passenger of horse-drawn carriage brought action in negligence and strict liability against driver of carriage and owner of horse and carriage for injuries passenger received when carriage went off road and overturned. The lower court dismissed all of passenger's counts.  On appeal, the Appellate Court held that, as matter of first impression, the passenger was not subject to provisions of EALA, and the alleged facts sufficient to state cause of action under state Animal Control Act.

State v. Peterson 174 Wash. App. 828, 301 P.3d 1060 review denied, 178 Wash. 2d 1021, 312 P.3d 650 (2013)
In this case, defendant appeals six counts of first degree animal cruelty charges. On appeal, the defendant argued that (1) the statute she was convicted under, RCW 16.52.205(6), was unconstitutionally vague; that (2) starvation and dehydration were alternative means of committing first degree animal cruelty and that (3) there was no substantial evidence supporting the horses suffered from dehydration. The defendant also argued that the Snohomish Superior court had no authority to order her to reimburse the county for caring for her horses. The appeals court, however, held that RCW 16.52.205(6) was not unconstitutionally vague; that starvation and dehydration were alternative means to commit first degree animal cruelty, but there was substantial evidence to support the horses suffered from dehydration; and that the superior court had authority to order the defendant to pay restitution to the county.
Stoffels v. Harmony Hill Farm 2006 WL 3699549 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2006)

An owner of a horse farm acquired a new horse that had only recently been broken in and got a woman with some health problems to ride the horse. The horse bucked and threw the defendant off the horse causing injury. The court held that even though riders assume the risk of most injuries, a horse owner can be liable for failure to take reasonable measures to match the rider to a suitable horse.

Swido v. Lafayette Insurance Co. 16 So.2d 399 (La.App. 3 Cir., 2005)

In this Louisiana case, a prospective horse buyer filed an action against the prior sellers and their insurer to recover for injuries when she attempted to ride a horse offered for sale by the initial buyer. At the time of the injury, the horse was under the custody of the original sellers who were paid an additional amount to have the horse trained. The Court of Appeal held that sale of horse was perfected when the first buyer paid the sale price, even though the first buyer paid an additional amount for the sellers to finish training the horse. On the negligence issue, the court found the "green-broke" horse did not present an unreasonable risk of harm when the potential buyer attempted to ride it bareback as to assign strict liability to the prior sellers who had custody of the horse. 

Taylor v. Howren 606 S.E.2d 74 (Ga.App., 2004)

A family friend wanted to ride a horse and the horse owner told him it was rideable, despite knowing the horse was not fully trained yet.  The family friend sued after being kicked in the eye, knocked unconscious and paralyzed by the horse.  The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's entry of summary judgment for the horse owner on the basis that there was still a genuine issue of material fact as to the horse owner's immunity under the Equine Activities Act. 

Tilson v. Russo 30 A.D.3d 856 (N.Y.A.D. 3 Dept., 2006),

In this New York case, plaintiff, an experienced recreational horse rider, was bitten by a horse she intended to use to practice her techniques at defendant's stable. The rider then  brought a negligence action against owners of horse that bit her on the shoulder. In affirming the lower court's granting of summary judgment, the appellate court found that rider's injury occurred in the context of her participation in the recreational sporting activity of horseback riding, for purposes of primary assumption of the risk principles. She was aware of the inherent risks in sporting events involving horses, had an appreciation of the nature of the risks, and voluntarily assumed those risks.

Trummer v. Niewisch 792 N.Y.S.2d 596 (N.Y., 2005)

A woman fell from a horse during a riding lesson when her horse was frightened.  The woman brought claims against the riding facility and riding instructor for negligence.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and the Court of Appeals affirmed reasoning horses becoming frightened is an inherent risk when riding.

Vanderbrook v. Emerald Springs Ranch 109 A.D.3d 1113 (N.Y.A.D. 4 Dept.,2013).

While on a guided trail ride, plaintiff's horse brushed up against a tree that the plaintiff was unable to push away from. As a result, plaintiff's leg and hip sustained injuries and the plaintiff sued the ranch and the ranch's owners. Defendants’ appealed the Wayne County Supreme Court denial for the defendants' motion for summary. On appeal, the court found the Supreme Court properly denied the defendants' motion for summary judgment. First, the court found the defendants failed to meet their initial burden of establishing entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issues of the horse's vicious propensity and defendants' knowledge of that propensity.

Zuckerman v. Coastal Camps, Inc. 716 F.Supp.2d 23 (D.Me., 2010)

This case arose after twelve-year old Samantha Zuckerman sustained injuries when she fell the pony she was riding during a horseback riding lesson at Camp Laurel in Mount Vernon, Maine. Samantha alleged that her instructors improperly saddled the pony, which caused her saddle to slip. In appealing the Magistrate's recommended decision, Camp Laurel again claims that it is immune from liability under Maine Equine Activities Act because a slipping saddle is a risk inherent to the sport of horseback riding. Camp Laurel contends that the faulty tack exception is limited to situations where the tack cracks, breaks, or frays and does not include  an “improperly tightened girth” or an “inappropriate pony” or “faulty horse.” This Court agreed with the Magistrate Judge that the record raises a genuine issue of material fact concerning the “faulty” tack exception. The Court found that the negligence here was tied to an exception to the liability shield - faulty tack.