Living in Ocala/Marion County, the “Horse Capital of the World,” we are surrounded by equines of all breeds. With more than 900 farms in the area, thousands of horses are used for pleasure and business.
If you’ve been to a local horse facility, you’ve likely noticed a sign posted which states the following: “Under Florida law, an equine activity sponsor or equine professional is not liable for an injury to, or the death of, a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.”
As this statute notes, Florida has a strong law that helps protect stable and property owners from lawsuits, but this law doesn’t provide blanket immunity in the event of an accident. Making the choice to ride and handle a horse comes with some assumed risks, but property owners are still responsible for providing safe equipment and conditions.
“Anything the owner does that is considered negligent, intentional, reckless or wanton that is not an inherent risk of equine activities will not be covered by the immunity from liability, allowing the victim to sue for equine-related injuries,” notes Greg King, managing shareholder of the King Law Firm in Ocala.
For example, even if someone signs a waiver at a trail riding stable, the landowner may be held liable if, for example, the rider is injured due to a faulty saddle or irresponsible actions, such as putting a rider on an inappropriate horse.
King explains that in the case of such a lawsuit, the injured party would have to show that their injury resulted from dangerous conditions or other negligence.
“The law does allow a victim to sue a business that provides equines or equine equipment if the business fails to make a reasonable and prudent investigation of whether the rider can manage the animal safely,” says King. “This is based on the participant’s representations of his or her abilities, so riders should never misrepresent their experience level with horses. Basic inquiries should be made as to a rider’s experience and efforts should be made to match riders with horses of appropriate sizes and temperaments. In some cases, it may mean denying the ability to ride a horse at all.”
If you have an equine facility or horse property, you are not legally required to display the equine liability sign, if you provide written notice of the statute’s immunity provisions in document form to persons who are using the property for equine activities. It is a good idea to do both. In the event that someone is injured by your horse, on your property, you should notify your insurance company.
If you are injured while participating in an equine activity, you should have the injury treated and documented by a medical professional. Then talk with a qualified local attorney about your legal rights to determine if you have a case.
King Law Firm
2156 E. Silver Springs Blvd. Ocala, FL 34470