Horses are majestic animals but can be dangerous depending on the nature of the activities they are performing. The Equine Immunity Statute provides certain immunities to equine sponsors that own with horses that engage in certain equine activities. See La. R.S. 9:2795:3. “Participants” in equine activities cannot sue equine sponsors but mere “spectators” can, with limited exceptions. While the Equine Immunity Statute gives broad protections, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently found that a horse bite accident should proceed to a jury trial and not be settled as a matter of law by a trial judge. So, what are your legal steps after being bit by a horse in Louisiana?
The plaintiff visited the defendant’s facility and inquired about feeding and visiting the defendant’s horses. The defendant owned several horses and provided educational opportunities to New Orleans residents who were interested in learning and interacting with horses. The defendant also provided boarding services for outside horse owners. On September 23, 2013, a few days after her first visit, plaintiff returned with carrots to feed the defendant’s horses. While the main office was closed that day, she encountered two outside horse owners who told her that a “pony” had been known to have bitten a child recently. Plaintiff went to the boarding area and fed three of the defendant’s horses. While she was feeding the third horse, she was bit on her hand.
The appellate court reversed the trial court’s holding that the defendant was entitled to immunity as a matter of law. The court held that the trial court applied an overly broad definition and interpretation of “participant.” Determining whether someone qualified as a participant must be done by a jury, or trier of fact. Statutes that provide immunity must be strictly construed against the party claiming said immunity. See Medine v. Geico Gen. Ins. Inc., 748 So.2d 532, 535 (La. App. Ct. 1999).
The Equine Immunity Statute provides immunity when participants engage in equine activities, including racing, driving, mounting and unmounting and providing transportation to passengers. Those who are spectators do not fall within the purview of this statute, unless they are in an unauthorized area or in the immediate proximity of an equine activity, such as riding, hunting or racing. The definitions in the statute did not include a visitor to a stable who is feeding the horses treats or even any activity involving feeding at all. There was also uncertainty about how broadly to define the term “equine activity.” Because there were mixed issues of law and fact as to whether the plaintiff was a participant or spectator and the statute did not define the plaintiff’s activities as those the statute barred from suit, the court held that the trial court’s finding as a matter of law was not warranted.
A plaintiff can prevail over a summary judgment motion by articulating the reasons an immunity statute does not include an act that falls within the statutes purview. Because the plaintiff succeeded in articulating these reasons, her case will now be heard in court and she will be allowed to seek redress for her injuries.
Additional Sources: Larson v. XYZ Insurance Company
Written By Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: George Emmons
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