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.
The trial court concluded that the statute barred the plaintiff’s case, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision, finding that the equine immunity statute applied. The court explained that the plaintiff’s injury was the very type of injury that is inherent to horseback riding. In so holding, the court rejected the plaintiff’s position that the focus of the inquiry should be on the defendant’s failures to follow her own rules. Instead, the court focused its analysis primarily on how the plaintiff’s injuries came to be, and whether they were the result of risks commonly associated with horseback riding.
The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that this case fits within an exception to the general grant of immunity under RSA 508:19. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that, under RSA 508:19, III(b) a person can be liable if they “provided the equine and failed to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity.” The court reasoned that the evidence suggested that the defendant knew the plaintiff was an experienced rider and had successfully ridden that specific horse in the past without issue. As a result of the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s lawsuit was dismissed.
Have You Been Injured in a New Hampshire Horseback Riding Accident?
Horseback riding can be an enjoyable hobby; however, it can also be very dangerous. If you or someone you love has been injured in a New Hampshire horseback riding accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates. At our Concord personal injury law firm, we represent clients in cases involving injuries caused by horseback riding, as well as in other types of claims, including New Hampshire car accidents and slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with an attorney, call 800-804-2004 today.