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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).

Contact Us

At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of our convenient locations. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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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.

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WHO MAY BRING A CLAIM WHEN SOMEONE IS KILLED?

Who May Bring A Claim When Someone is Killed?When someone is killed and it was the fault of another person or company Texas law allows certain family members to file suit for wrongful death. These family members include the decedent’s spouse, children, and parents. No one else may bring a claim. Grandparents, siblings, foster parents, and other relatives are not entitled to bring a wrongful death claim, no matter how close they were to the decedent or financially dependent upon him they were. Stepchildren and stepparents of the decedent may not bring a wrongful death claim unless there had been an adoption. The wrongful death claimants may sue for their mental anguish, pecuniary loss (such as loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel and monetary contributions they would have received from the decedent if he or she had lived), loss of companionship and society, and loss of inheritance.

The decedent’s estate also has what is known as a survival claim. This is a claim for the pain and mental anguish the decedent suffered before death, medical expenses for treatment of the decedent’s injuries, and funeral and burial expenses. Any money recovered by the estate in a survival claim will be distributed according to the decedent’s will or, if there is no will, then to the decedent’s heirs under the Texas law of intestacy.

When a person is killed by another’s negligence and a close relative witnesses the event, that relative may have what is known as a bystander claim. Generally Texas law requires that 1) the person was near the scene of the accident, 2) the shock to the bystander resulted from a direct emotional impact from observing the accident, and 3) the bystander was closely related to the decedent. An example would be a fatal car wreck where a passenger witnesses the death of a relative.

Contact Us

At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of our convenient locations. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.