Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Injured Recreational Horsewoman's Claim Defeats Equine Activity Defense

Teles v. Big Rock Stables, L.P. 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13035 (D. Tenn. 2006)

Plaintiff rented a horse from the stable to ride on trails owned by Big Rock. Plaintiff also signed a release of liability of the stable and its associates for ordinary negligence prior to riding the horse. The plaintiff alleged that she was provided with a faulty saddle which caused her to fal and sustain injury.

The defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that Tenn. Code Ann. 44-20-101 et seq. , the "Equine Activities Act" barred the plaintiff's claim. The statute provides that an equine activity operator is immune from liability because of the risks inherent in riding horses. The statute also provides that if the operator knows or should have known that equipment provided for the rider is faulty or willfuly or wantonly disregards the safety of the participant, then liability is not barred by the statute. The defendant also argued that the signed release of liability barred the plaintiff's claim.

The court overruled the defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding that the exculpatory clauses in the release of liability were unenforceable as to intentional, reckless or grossly negligent conduct. Likewise, a reasonable jury could find that the conduct alleged was willful and wanton, taking it out of the reach of the Equine Activities statute.


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