Whether undertaking a little equestrian sport as a beginner or someone with advanced abilities, horses can cause horrific injuries. Can these result in successful lawsuits to compensate the participant for pain, missed work or care required? If you have suffered an injury caused by a horse, you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against the owner, the stable, or both.

There are a number of ways horse injuries can occur. The first is if you are injured while participating in horse related activities on someone else’s property. Owners of a property have a legal obligation to make their property safe for those invited onto it. In Alberta, the Occupier’s Liability Act imposes a duty of care on the occupier of a premise to ensure that all people entering the premise will be reasonably safe. This legislation covers all business and private property including horse stables and land where horses are kept.

This means that if a person is injured by a horse at a stable or other property, the occupier of that property will be liable for injuries that occur on the premise if it was reasonably foreseeable that a person could be injured by a hazard which the occupier knew about and did not take steps to remove or fix. For example, if the occupier left a pile of barbed wire on their property and a horse you were riding got stuck in the wire and caused you to fall and injure yourself, the occupier could be liable for not removing the foreseeable hazard (the barbed wire). You could have lawyers draw up a personal injury claim.

A few examples of reported cases include:

1. Starrett v Campbell, 2015 BCSC 1424 – the owner of a horse-riding business was found liable when a customer on one of his guided trail-rides fell off the horse she had rented from the business. The Court found that the owner had allowed the Plaintiff to rent a horse that was too flighty and sensitive for an inexperienced rider. The Court stated that it was reasonably foreseeable that a flighty horse would take off when being mounted by an inexperienced rider and found the owner of the horse-riding business liable for the Plaintiff’s injuries.

2. Konopada v Blais, 2001 MBQB 69, the owner of a horse-riding business and the employee responsible for tacking the horse were found responsible when a woman fell off her horse on a trail ride. The evidence showed that the cinch on the saddle had not been put on properly and the Plaintiff had fallen when the saddle fell off the horse. The Court found that it was the responsibility of the business and its employees to ensure that each horse was properly equipped and that the equipment used was in good condition.

3. While warning signs and proper instruction may be enough to prevent liability from being found against the owners, each case will depend on the specific facts. For example, in Laws v Wright, 2000 ABQB 49 a Plaintiff sued the owner of the stable and the owner of a horse who had bitten her and caused severe injuries. The Plaintiff argued that proper precautions had not been taken to prevent a horse that was known to have a temper from biting and harming those who had to pass its stall. The Defendants argued that they had given the Plaintiff sufficient warning about the horse’s temper and the dangers of being around horses generally. They also argued that they had expressly told the Plaintiff not to feed the horse in question. The Court found that the Defendants had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent a foreseeable risk and that the Plaintiff was liable for her own injuries because she had disregarded explicit warnings not to approach the horse.

4. Another way injuries from horses can occur is if the horse escapes from their owner or enclosure and cause accidents on highways. At large livestock like horses have been known to run onto roads and cause collisions. If this happens the owner of the horse, and the owners of the property the horse was kept on may be liable for the accident.

For example, in McIntyre v. Collyer, 1999 BCSC a woman had been riding her horse down the side of the road and lost control of it. The horse escaped and ran into the highway causing a collision. The Court found that the owner of the horse was liable because she had dismounted from her horse and had not taken proper measures to ensure that the horse was secure and could not bolt. The Court found that the Defendant was liable for the accident because she had not taken reasonable steps to control the horse and prevent it was escaping onto the highway.

5. Similarly, in Bury v Bury 1997 BCSC the owners and stable owners were found liable when a horse escaped from its enclosure and caused a serious accident on an adjacent road. The owners of the property rarely checked the state of their fences and the enclosure the horse was in had been in a state of poor repair. The Plaintiff in this case was able to recover from the owner of the horse as well as the owner of the property where it was kept.

Robinson LLP has had significant experience litigating cases involving horse related injuries. We have represented people injured when they were riding, working around livestock and when their vehicles have struck loose horses on roadways. Accidents involving horses are complex matters and can arise in a variety of different ways. There are many different statues and laws at play and multiple people who may be liable for your injuries (and have insurance to cover the situation). If you have been injured in an accident involving a horse, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The lawyers at Robinson LLP will be able to determine who is at fault for your injuries and ensure that you are properly compensated.

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