Were you or someone you know injured while riding a horse at a horse camp, trail ride, or horse show? If so, unless you qualify for a narrow exemption, you may not be able to seek legal redress against a negligent party who may have caused your injuries because of immunity horse activity sponors enjoy in Ohio.
Due to the inherent risks found within horse activities (horse shows, fairs, competitions, performances, trail riding and recreational riding), the Ohio legislature has given sponsors of those activities a broad grant of immunity to protect sponsors from lawsuits alleging many forms of negligence.
The immunity statute, otherwise known as Ohio Revised Code 2305.321, appliess to riders, passengers and even spectators at a horse activity. The statute takes away the rights of an injured party to seek damages regardless of whether they are considered an amateur or professional, and regardless of whether a fee was paid to participate in the activity.
The statute protects 'equine activity sponsors,' otherwise known as anyone who, for profit or not-for-profit, organizes or provides a facility for horse activity, including, but not limited to horse clubs and school-sponsored clubs. The statute also protects 'equine professionals,' including those who treach, rent, provide care, and breed horses.
Several exceptions to the broad immunity horse sponors and professionals enjoy exist. If you've been injured as the result of someone else's negligence while engaged in a horse-activity, your ability to successfully seek damages likely depends on whether or not the facts of your situation fit within one of the following exceptions:
- When a horse sponsor or professional provides a participant with faulty or defective equipment and knows or should have known the equipment was faulty, and the faultly equipment causes the participant's injury.
- When a horse sponsor or professional provides a horse to a participant without making reasonable efforts to determine the participant's ability to safely engage in the activity or to safely manage the horse based upon the participant's stated ability level, leading to an unsafe activity which causes harm to the participant.
- When harm is caused to a participant by a dangerous condition of the land and the horse sponsor or professional knows or should have known of the dangerous condition but does not warn of the dangerous condition.
- When the horse sponor, participant, or professional engages in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of a participant and harm results to the participant.
- When a horse sponsor, participant, or professional intentionally causes harm to a fellow participant.
If you or someone you know has been injured while participating in a horse activity, and you feel that someone should be held responsible for your injuries, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. The attorney will be able to investigate your claim to determine if litigation is appropriate.