On June 23, 2015, Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law an amendment to Michigan’s Equine Activity Liability Act (“EALA”).  The law was amended by Public Act 87 of 2015.  You can find it here. 

THE LAW BEFORE AMENDMENT

The new amendment targets a portion of Michigan’s EALA involving its exceptions –sections of the law on which people can file equine-related personal injury lawsuits. As enacted in 1994, Michigan’s EALA included four exceptions:

  • providing “faulty tack or equipment.”
  • providing an equine and “failing to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity.”
  • “dangerous latent conditions” of land where an equine activity takes place “for which warning signs are not conspicuously posted.”
  • An “equine activity sponsor,” “equine professional” or “another person” “[c]ommits a negligent act or omission that constitutes a proximate cause of the injury, death, or damage.” This section of the Act was just amended.

In the years that followed passage of Michigan’s EALA, the legal profession and the equine industry debated the existence and purpose of this “negligence” exception in the law. Julie Fershtman’s article in the December 2013 issue of the Michigan Bar Journal detailed her concerns that it rendered Michigan’s EALA less effective. Here’s a link to the article.

THE AMENDMENT

Michigan’s amended law, Public Act 87 of 2015, changes the Michigan EALA’s last exception by modifying its terms, breaking it into two sections, and eliminating the “negligence” exception for certain people, organizations, and businesses. Its modifications to Section 5 (MCL§691.1665) of the law are:

(d) If the person is an equine activity sponsor or equine professional, commits an act or omission that constitutes a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant, and that is a proximate cause of the injury, death, or damage.

(e) If the person is not an equine activity sponsor or equine professional, commits a negligent act or omission that constitutes a proximate cause of the injury, death, or damage.

Those who qualify as “equine activity sponsors” and “equine professionals” under the Michigan EALA stand to benefit from the amended law since the amended law generally allows “participants” in “equine activities” fewer options for lawsuits. As defined in Michigan’s EALA, an “equine activity sponsor,” means “an individual, group, club, partnership, or corporation, whether or not operating for profit, that sponsors, organizes, or provides the facilities for an equine activity, including, but not limited to, a pony club; 4-H club; hunt club; riding club; school- or college-sponsored class, program, or activity; therapeutic riding program; stable or farm owner; and operator, instructor, or promoter of an equine facility including, but not limited to, a stable, clubhouse, pony ride string, fair, or arena at which the equine activity is held.”

Equine professional” under Michigan’s EALA means “a person engaged in any of the following for compensation: (i) Instructing a participant in an equine activity. (ii) Renting an equine, equipment, or tack to a participant. (iii) Providing daily care of horses boarded at an equine facility. (iv) Training an equine. (v) Breeding of equines for resale or stock replenishment.

CONCLUSION

Michigan’s amended EALA does not eliminate the need for liability insurance. Please remember that all Equine Activity Liability Acts differ. Read the laws in effect where you live or do business. Direct your questions to a knowledgeable attorney.