Meg Johnson recently attended the 27th Annual National Conference on Equine Law in Lexington, KY.  A highlight of the 2012 conference included a discussion of the recent Texas Supreme Court decision in Lofton v. Lee, which essentially expanded the definition of inherent risk as it relates to cases involving equine activities in Texas.

Plaintiff Lee filed a lawsuit alleging personal injuries resulting from a fall during a trail ride.  She alleged that the guide was negligent in leading the ride through an overgrown trail on which her rented horse bolted after becoming entangled in a vine.  Lofton v. Lee, 341 S.W.3d 352 (Tex. 2011).  In an extensive analysis of the Texas Equine Activity Limitation of Liability Act (re-named the Texas Farm Animal Limitation of Liability Act as of June 2011) the Court of Appeals determined that inherent risk, as it applies to a trial ride, is an issue of fact, and that summary judgment was not appropriate.  On review, the Texas Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held that “inherent risk” should be analyzed more broadly and that analysis should include risk of sponsor negligence.  “Construed so narrowly, the Act would accomplish nothing,” and “[i]t would have been pointless for the Legislature to limit liability where none existed.”  The Texas Supreme Court also noted that, although the issue of inherent risk may sometimes raise a fact issue, inherent risk in equine cases “should be based on a common sense understanding of the nature of equine activities.” 

The conference also covered topics relating to equine insurance first and third party coverage issues, employment issues in the equine industry, legal issues in representation of horse associations, and fiduciary obligations in equine matters.   

If you would like further information about any of the topics covered at this year’s conference, or if you need assistance with an equine or farm/ranch related matter, please contact Meg.

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