Is The Horse Responsible?
Here at J&G we consider ourselves a firm that offers services in many and varied fields of the law. A look at our home page will reveal the different areas in which we practice. This article is a cross between two: personal injury and equine law. Put simply, what does the law say if you are thrown from a horse at a stable? And what are your responsibilities as the owner who offers rides? As you will see, it says several things in two recent and different cases. In one case, the injured rider did not have her case dismissed, in the other, the case was thrown out. The facts make all the difference.
In one case in December 2015, Chole was injured while taking horseback riding lessons at a horse farm in Nassau county. At the direction of her instructor, Chloe attempted to perform a maneuver with her feet out of the stirrups. She felt uncomfortable performing the maneuver and told the instructor so but the instructor insisted. Chloe fell from the horse.
In a case several months later [March 2016], Lynette was injured when she was thrown from a horse during a recreational ride at the stable operated by the Bronx Equestrian Center.
The risk of a horse acting in an unintended manner resulting in the rider being thrown is a risk inherent in the sport of horseback riding. Also, a voluntary participant in a sporting or recreational activity consents to those commonly appreciated risks which are inherent in, and arise out of, the nature of the sport generally and flow from such participation. This primary assumption of risk does not serve as a bar to liability, however, if the risk is unassumed, concealed or unreasonably increased, it is to be assessed against the background of the skill and experience of the particular rider.
In Chloe’s case, the Court said that there were questions of fact about her skill and experience, as well as her comfort level, which may have increased the danger of the maneuver she was asked to perform. Her case was allowed to go forward. Lynette’s case was dismissed as she was not able to demonstrate that the stable was reckless nor was there evidence of any concealed or unreasonably increased risks.
Many leisure activities are fun and exciting and at the same time there can be a certain level of risk. If you are involved with horses, as a rider or owner, and you have concerns or issues, we would be glad to offer a consultation.
Robert M. Lefland is Senior Counsel in charge of Personal Injury at J&G. He can be reached by calling 866.303.9595 toll free or 845.764.9656 and by email .