Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Dismissed Under Equine Liability Statute

Earlier this month, an appellate court in Montana issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that arose when the plaintiff fell off a horse that was outfitted by the defendant. The case is of particular relevance to Virginia accident victims because the Virginia Equine Activity Liability Act is substantially similar to the statute in the court’s opinion.

Brown HorseGenerally speaking, when a company provides a service, such as outfitting, the company assumes a duty to make sure the customer is kept reasonably safe. However, specific statutes may apply in certain situations, limiting a company’s duty in those situations. This case analyzed a statute specific to horseback riding.

The Facts

The plaintiff was an inexperienced rider who arranged to go horseback riding with the defendant company. The plaintiff informed the company that he did not have much experience and relied on the company to outfit him with a horse that best fit his size and experience.

Prior to getting on the horse, the plaintiff signed a general release waiver and received some safety instructions. However, shortly after getting on the horse and embarking on the trip, the plaintiff fell off the horse as the saddle slid to one side. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the company, claiming that its employees were negligent in failing to adjust the saddle for him and make sure that it was safe.

The Court’s Analysis

The defendant first argued that the release waiver excused all liability. However, the court rejected that argument, finding that the defendant was not able to contract away liability for this type of claim.

From there, the court looked at the merits of the plaintiff’s claim. Specifically, the court looked at whether the state’s Equine Activities Act precluded liability. In relevant part, the Act states “if the injury is due to an inherent risk of equine activities and the participant expected that risk, then the equine activity sponsor cannot have been negligent.”

The court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim fit squarely within the text of the Act. The plaintiff claimed that his injury occurred when the saddle slipped off one end of the horse, causing him to fall. The court noted that this is a risk that is inherent in horseback riding, and unless the slippage was caused by the defendant’s failure to “reasonably and prudently inspect or maintain the equipment,” the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed. Since the plaintiff was unable to show that the defendant’s inspection of the saddle was not reasonable or prudent, the alleged act of negligence fell within the Act, and the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

Have You Been Injured in a Pay-to-Play Activity?

If you have recently been injured while engaging in any kind of recreational activity or pay-to-play activity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia personal injury lawsuit based on spinal cord injuries or other injuries. While there are some statutes that preclude liability in a narrow set of circumstances, the general rule allows for recovery when an accident is caused by another party’s negligence. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call the law offices of Charles B. Roberts, P.C. at 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation today.

See More Blog Posts:

Court Mandates Enforcement of Arbitration Clause in Recent Nursing Home Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 13, 2017.

“Fireman’s Rule” Prevents Police Officer from Pursuing Personal Injury Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 25, 2017.