Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a New Hampshire personal injury case involving a horseback riding accident in which a minor was seriously injured. The case required the court to determine if the defendant, an expert equestrian who gave the young girl lessons, could be liable for her injuries. Ultimately, the court concluded that under RSA 508:19, the state’s equine immunity statute, the defendant was entitled to immunity.
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a thirteen-year-old girl who had been taking horseback riding lessons from the defendant for two years. In addition to her scheduled lessons, about once a week, the plaintiff would go on a “free ride,” during which she would be unsupervised. It was during one of these free rides that the plaintiff fell off a horse while trying to dismount, and was seriously injured.
The girl, through her father, pursued a claim against the defendant. She claimed that the defendant’s negligence in allowing her to ride the horse unsupervised resulted in her injuries. In response, the defendant argued that she was entitled to immunity under RSA 508:19, the equine immunity statute. That statute provides that “an equine activity sponsor, an equine professional, or any other person engaged in an equine activity, shall not be liable for an injury or the death of a participant resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.” The plaintiff’s position was that her injuries were caused by risks that were not inherent to horseback riding.