EQUINE ACTIVITY LIABILITY EXCEPTIONS
Equine Activity Liability Laws provide Protection for Equine Professionals, however, there are exceptions you should know:
- Most states, including Ohio, have passed Equine Activity Liability Laws. These laws were created to encourage equine-related activities by giving the equine industry strong defenses against liability in litigation and the legal system.
- One of the major components of most of these laws is recognizing that equine activities are inherently dangerous.
- The laws are important to educate the public and make sure before they participate in horse-related activities, they understand there are significant “inherent risks”.
- These laws were meant to protect an “equine activity professional”, “equine activity sponsor”, or “equine facility” from being sued when a “participant” who engages in an “equine activity” suffers an injury, death, or damage from an “inherent risk”.
- However, as with most laws, these are exceptions to the immunities, horse people should know about and consistently make sure they are protecting themselves:
- 1. “Faulty Tack or Equipment” Exception– Liability can be found against the professional if they provided the equipment or tack and knew or should have known that the equipment or tack was faulty, AND it was so faulty to be totally or partially responsible for the injury to the participant.
- 2. “Dangerous Latent Condition of the Land Exception”- If a participant sustains an injury because of a dangerous latent condition of the land or facilities that is known to the equine professional, and no warning signs are posted conspicuously regarding the condition; and the equine professional owns, leases, or has control of the land, they can be found negligent and liable for the injury.
- 3. “Gross Negligence” Exception- Although difficult to prove, if the horse professional is found liable for omissions or acts which constitute “gross negligence” which is the cause of the injury to the participant, they are liable.
Negligence is the opposite of being careful based on a “reasonable person.”
- 4. “Negligence Exception”– The state laws regarding the exception vary, so a horse professional will want to know the interpretation of the laws in their specific state. Basically, this exception does not protect the horse professional if they are found to have negligently or wrongfully injured the participant.
- 5. “Reckless Disregard for the Safety of Others Exception”- Although hard to prove, the horse professional can be liable when their act or omission causes the injury, and it is “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of the participant.”
- 6. “Intentional Misconduct Exception”– The equine professional loses protection if they intentionally injure the participant for any reason.
- 7. “Provide a Horse & Fail to Make Reasonable Efforts Exception”- Suitability of horse to the level and experience of the rider is paramount. The horse professional must make a reasonable and prudent effort to determine the participant’s riding ability. The horse professional must have provided the horse to be liable. This exception generates the most litigation on a national level.
Ava Skeeles, at age 7, riding a pony, well-trained for beginners, at an Ohio horse camp. This pony would be considered a suitable mount for the level of the rider.