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.


Call for a Nationwide Ban on Cell Phones and Texting while Driving

Distracted driving causes more 6000 crashes and 3000 deaths each year

Safety organizations report that 28 percent of all accidents are caused by cell phone use. We have all been there, near an accident caused by talking or texting on the phone. Traffic deaths are not restricted to drivers and passengers. Emergency rooms reported last year more than 1000 pedestrians were injured or killed while walking and talking/texting. Hands-free phones are not, according to research, an effective solution. A driver in conversation with someone outside of the vehicle is also dangerously distracted. In fact, a cell phone user may be as impaired as a drunk driver.

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a nationwide ban on all cell phone use while driving. This goes beyond the hands-free laws enacted by ten states. Considering the dangers, why isn’t there such a ban in place? Cell phone use spread at almost an epidemic rate before the dangers were documented. At that point, the dangerous practice had become common. A majority of drivers state support for a ban, but their behavior belies their commitment. Psychologists tell us a texting or talking driver is under an illusion of control, in denial or the risks involved in the distracted-driving behavior. The NTSB has been joined by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), national insurance organizations, personal injury law firms, and the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) in the call for a ban.

The NTSB does not have authority to enact legislation, but with support from the governor’s organization and pressure from safety advocacy groups, state legislators are expected to consider more restrictions on mobile phone use. Recommendations include a nationwide ban on texting, restriction of cell phone use to emergencies, strict enforcement of existing laws, and a ban on the use of mobile devices by novice drivers.

The average time to send a text is 5 seconds, the time it takes a car moving at 55 mph to travel the length of a football field. A driver talking (hands-free or not) on a cell phone will generally slow down and often fail to notice critical details in the driving environment. The dangers are so well recognized that it is common practice for a personal injury attorney representing a car crash victim to request cell phone records from the driver of the other vehicle.

What can you do to protect yourself and others? First and foremost, hang up. Leave your phone in your pocket or purse until you are pulled off the road and parked. (No, a quick peek at the stop light is not safe you are likely to have to put your car in gear again before you finish reading the text.) By setting aside your mobile, you will be focused on driving and set an example for your passengers. Second, refuse to talk with or text someone who you know is driving. Say you know they are driving and you will wait for a callback when the drive is over. And third, contact your legislators to express your support for stronger legislation and enforcement. You can be part of the solution.

Contact the Texas personal injury law firm of Bailey & Galyen if you or a loved one has been seriously injured in an auto accident. We offer quality legal representation to clients throughout Texas, including Arlington, Bedford, Dallas, Fort Worth, Grand Prairie, Carrollton, Plano, Weatherford, Mesquite, Houston, Clear Lake, TX.