Southern California is replete with horse trails. Whether it’s for leisure or endurance riding, there are ample opportunities for horseback riding throughout the region.
Is the owner of a horse responsible when that horse injures a fellow rider?
This week the California Court of Appeal ruled on this important question involving horseback riding injuries. The case is Swigart v. Bruno.
Kathleen Swigart was leading a group of endurance riders on a 50 mile ride through Hemet. Halfway through the ride, she got off her horse for a moment. At that point, Carl Bruno’s horse bumped into another horse. That collision, in turn, spooked Bruno’s horse. It bolted towards Ms. Swigart, who was injured in the collision.
Ms. Swigart sued Mr. Bruno. The trial court dismissed the case, concluding that it was barred by the “primary assumption of the risk doctrine.”
The doctrine holds that a participant in an inherently dangerous activity assumes the risks associated with the activity. It means that a defendant does not owe any duties of care to the injured plaintiff, and it acts as a complete bar to recovery. (Knight v. Jewel (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, 308)
Primary assumption of the risk essentially recognizes that certain dangers are often integral to the activity, and defendants generally have no duty to protect a plaintiff from such risks.
The doctrine is commonly applied to sporting events. Many sports contests involve rigorous physical activities, and injuries are common. The doctrine bars co-participants from suing each other for injuries that arise during the game–unless they are inflicted intentionally.
Horses are by their nature unpredictable and difficult to control. That, combined with the inherent dangers of horseback riding, especially in an endurance contest, relieved Mr. Bruno from any liability for his horse’s conduct.
If you were injured in a horseback riding accident, it’s a good idea to discuss your case with an attorney for advice about your particular situation.
For questions about your case, the Rabbi Lawyer is ready to assist, 24/6.