The nation's first Equine Activity Liability Act was enacted in 1989. Now, 47 states (all except California, Maryland, and New York) have them. All of these laws differ. With the passage of time, questions have emerged about how these laws work and what they do. Julie Fershtman, who is widely considered to be the nation's most experienced and knowledgeable lawyer regarding these laws, explained them in a webinar earlier this week for www.equestrianprofessional.com. Here are some of her remarks.
ARE EQUINE ACTIVITY LIABILITY LAWS ("EALAS") ALWAYS "HORSE" LAWS?
No. As this blog explained recently some states apply these laws to several other types of animals, including cattle, goats, and emus.
IS EVERY STATE'S EALA IDENTICAL?
Some might appear identical, but they're not. Read carefully the laws applicable to the state where you live or do business. Here's one website we like that can help you find the laws.
DOES EVERY INTERACTION WITH A HORSE "TRIGGER" AN EALA?
No. Depending on the state law, not every activity involving a horse triggers the EALA. Some laws might not apply to people who are injured merely by walking through a horse barn; others do. As we wrote on this blog several years ago, some EALAs have been interpreted to be inapplicable to passengers who become injured in horse carriage rides, but states differ.
IF AN EALA INCLUDES A SIGN POSTING REQUIREMENT, MUST EVERYONE POST THE SIGN?
The answer depends on the particular state's law. Most of the laws require "equine professionals" to post certain "warning" signs, but laws exist requiring others, such as "sponsors," to post signs. Read the applicable law carefully.
SHOULD YOU POST THE ENTIRE LAW ON THE WALL OF YOUR STABLE?
Unless the law requires posting the complete text of the law, there's no need to do this.
DO THESE LAWS CHANGE?
Yes. A few states, in fact, have amended their EALAs such as Michigan, Maine, Texas, North Carolina, and a few others.
This blog post does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.