Proposed Legislation Would Rein in Liability for Equine Businesses

An article in The Buffalo News on Monday highlighted the “Equine Activity Safety Code Act”, proposed  by Senator Michael H. Ranzenhofer, which would limit the liability for horse facility operators.  Currently in New York, horseback riding is governed by the general liability rule, which encourages lawsuits for injuries that were beyond the operators’ control.  This legislation would make horseback riding a sport in which “inherent risk” is acknowledged by those who participate in the sport.  Our state already has such an exception for alpine skiing; because skiing is an inherently risky – and voluntary activity, operators are typically not liable for skiers’’ injuries.  Senator Ranzenhofer said as many as 30 states are considering or have passed such riding-risk laws.

This proposed legislation would give a boost to equine businesses, which face high insurance rates and the threat of costly lawsuits due to open-ended liability.  Importantly, the law would not allow negligent operators to escape responsibility. “This does not eliminate a person’s ability to sue,” Ranzenhofer said. “Someone can still bring an action for damages against the owner of a stable — if the person was acting recklessly or hid something.”

Horses, no matter how well trained, can nonetheless be unpredictable and horse riding is widely known to be an inherently risky activity. LRANY strongly supports this legislation to implement rational liability limits for operators of horse facilities, a positive step toward reviving our economy and bringing common sense back to New York.

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