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Hold Your Horses!: Limitations on Liability in Recreational Equine Activities

Few things are as synonymous with Texas culture and heritage as horseback riding. Yet it is an activity which offers numerous risks of injury. In recognition of these known risks, and the importance of livestock to the state, the Texas Legislature enacted the Texas Equine Act in 1995. The Equine Act, as amended¹, provides:

  • [A]ny person, including a farm animal activity sponsor, farm animal professional, livestock producer, livestock show participant, or livestock show sponsor, is not liable for property damage or damages arising from the personal injury or death of a participant in a farm animal activity or livestock show if the property damage, injury, or death results from the dangers or conditions that are an inherent risk of a farm animal activity or the showing of an animal on a competitive basis in a livestock show

TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE 87.003. The Act therefore shields those who provide or otherwise offer horses and other livestock for recreational use from liability for injuries sustained form so-called “inherent risks” of these activities. Among such “inherent risks” identified in the statute are:

  1. the propensity of a farm animal or livestock animal to behave in ways that may result in personal injury or death to a person on or around it;
  2. the unpredictability of a farm animal’s or livestock animal’s reaction to sound, a sudden movement, or an unfamiliar object, person, or other animal;
  3. with respect to farm animal activities involving equine animals, certain land conditions and hazards, including surface and subsurface conditions;
  4. a collision with another animal or an object; or
  5. the potential of a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to injury to the participant or another, including failing to maintain control over a farm animal or livestock animal or not acting within the participant’s ability.

TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE 87.003. This list of “inherent risks” is not, however, exclusive. See Loftin v. Lee, 341 S.W.3d 352, 356 (Tex. 2011). Surprisingly, among the unlisted “inherent risks” recognized by our courts is the risk that your activity’s sponsor will be negligent. See Loftin v. Lee, 341 S.W.3d at 357. The Act does, however, provide exceptions to its protections. These exceptions are for equipment provided by a defendant and known to be faulty; known latent conditions of the land; and willful, wanton, or intentional conduct. See generally TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE 87.004. Additionally, the Act does not protect a defendant who provided the animal, but “did not make a reasonable and prudent effort to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the farm animal activity or livestock show and determine the ability of the participant to safely manage the farm animal or livestock animal, taking into account the participant’s representations of ability.” TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE 87.004(2).

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¹The Act was amended in 2011 to provide the same limitations of liability described herein to most livestock activities in general, as opposed to just equine activities.