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Limitation on Liability in New Mexico Personal Injury Cases Involving Horseback Riding Accidents

Posted in Firm News

New Mexico is widely known for its picturesque terrain and awe-inspiring views. With its unique landscape, it is no wonder that many people enjoy New Mexico’s scenery on horseback. Although many people have experience riding horses, there are, of course, many who do not possess the skill and expertise to properly maneuver these animals. As a result, New Mexico lawmakers with the help of the New Mexico Horse Council (NMHC) enacted the Equine Liability Act.

The Act explains that individuals who observe or participate in horse activities should expect that certain injuries may occur. They found that people should be aware that these injuries are considered inherent to participating in these sorts of activities. The legislature has reasoned that participation in equine activities has a significant amount of economic and social benefits, so they want to encourage people to continue to engage in these activities. However, individuals who do participate should understand the risks associated with the activities, as well as the fact that they may be precluded from recovery if they are injured.

Under the Act, horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, and hinnies are all considered equine. Furthermore, activities include but are not limited to shows, competitions, rodeos, teaching activities, rides, trips, and racing. Moreover, the legislature explains that individuals should understand that these animals may have the propensity to buck, stumble, trample, and be generally unpredictable. Because of this inherent propensity, there is a limitation on liability for those persons who are injured during these activities. This means that no corporation or person can be liable for the death or injury of a rider who was engaged in these activities unless the named defendant was negligent.

In this context, negligent behavior may be instances in which the operator knew or should have known that equipment was faulty, it did not safely manage a particular animal based on the rider’s ability, or it engaged in a conscious disregard for the safety of the rider.

Montana Supreme Court Finds Trail Riding Company Not Liable for Injury Incurred During Trail Ride

The Montana Supreme Court recently held that the state Equine Activities Act protected a riding company after a participant fell off and injured himself during a trail ride. According to the opinion, a man arranged a trail ride for himself and some family members. In order to book the ride, he provided information regarding his height and weight, and he then signed a disclaimer that explained that the saddle may loosen, which may cause the rider to fall off the horse.

Prior to mounting the horse, the trail riding company checked the saddle several times, and it was cinched after the plaintiff arrived. The plaintiff was then given instructions and began riding the horse. Sometime during the ride, the saddle became uncentered, and the plaintiff attempted to re-center the saddle. However, he was unable to properly calibrate the saddle himself and ended up jumping off the horse. The horse did not buck or react at all during the incident.

The plaintiff then filed a negligence action against the company, alleging that the company did not inspect the saddle, which resulted in his injuries. The district court dismissed the case, explaining that summary judgment should be granted in favor of the company because this sort of slippage is an inherent risk of horseback riding. The plaintiff then appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s decision that this was indeed an inherent risk covered by the state’s Equine Activities Act.

Have You Been Injured in an Equine Accident in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured while participating in an equine-related activity, you should contact an experienced attorney at the Fine Law Firm. These cases can be exceedingly difficult to navigate because of the Equine Activities Act; however, the New Mexico personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in determining whether an individual’s or corporation’s negligence caused your injuries and whether you are entitled to monetary compensation. Contact the Fine Law Firm at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

New Mexico’s Recreational Use Statute, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 24, 2017.

New Mexico’s Expert Requirement in Medical Malpractice Cases, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 13, 2017.