Memorial Day weekend was a time for parades. Horses in parades have brought injuries and litigation.

Several years ago, an injured Iowa parade spectator filed a lawsuit after being struck by a pony in the parade. The parade spectator wanted to cross the street while the parade was in progress. Before an organized group of horses approached, she perceived a “break” in the parade and then crossed the street while carrying a lawn chair. The chair spooked one of the ponies in the parade. This pony, at the time, was being ridden by two children, ages 4 and 8, but nobody led the pony on foot. When the pony spooked, it bolted, threw the children, and knocked over the spectator.

A lawsuit followed, and the injured spectator sued the parade sponsor as well as the owner of the pony, raising arguments under Iowa's Equine Activity Liability Act. (As we explained in this blog a few years ago, Iowa’s law was amended to change from an “equine” statute to a “domesticated animal” statute.) The essence of the lawsuit was that the defendants wrongly allowed children to ride a pony in the parade without a lead rope held by an adult on foot. The lawsuit raised the exceptions in Iowa’s then-existing law for “reckless” conduct; and "faulty or defective equipment” based on the lack of a lead rope attached to the pony. As an alternative argument, the spectator argued that Iowa’s Equine Activity Liability Act should not apply to the case based on an exclusion for a "spectator who is in place where a reasonable person who is alert to the inherent risks of domesticated animal activities would not expect a domesticated animal activity to occur.”

Dismissing the case, the trial court held that the failure to have the pony led with a lead rope did not qualify as "reckless conduct.” The court also rejected and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim under the Iowa Equine Activity Liability Act for "faulty or defective equipment” because it found no equipment flaw – rather, the plaintiff was complaining that a lead rope was not used. Finally, the Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the Equine Activity Liability Act was inapplicable and held that any reasonable person who crossed the street in the face of the oncoming parade of horses certainly had to expect a "domesticated animal activity” taking place there. When the plaintiff appealed the dismissal, the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed.

The case was: Snider v. Fort Madison Rodeo Corporation, 2002 WL 570890 (Iowa App. 2002)(unpublished).