Most Indiana equestrians have seen this sign posted in a barn. These signs are often placed in communal barn areas or places easily viewable when first entering the barn. If the language on the sign seems a little buttoned up, it’s because it’s drawn directly from Indiana code 34-31-5-1, which renders equestrian professionals immune from civil liability in Indiana.
But the lingering question is are these signs enough to protect professionals under the law? The correct answer is “well, kind of.” Let’s explore the background of the sign and the law that applies, as well as potential exceptions.
Indiana Equine Law and Liability
In Indiana, equine law is governed by Ind. Code § 34-31-5-1 through §34-31-5-5. Ind. Code § 34-31-5-1 states that “an equine activity sponsor or equine professional is not liable for:
(1) an injury to a participant; or
(2) the death of a participant;
resulting from an inherent risk of equine activities.
This seems perfect to protect barn owners, farm managers, trainers, instructors, and other professionals in theory. Most equestrians are aware the sport is generally dangerous, and waivers often cause participants to assume certain liabilities.
Ind. Code § 34-31-5-3 requires the equine liability signs to be posted in “visible location in proximity to the equine activity” in black letters of at least one inch in height for this chapter to be applicable. These signs are simply just a copy of the Indiana Code posted around the barn. However, if the sign is not posted in the legally-required area or according to the size standards, this would be one instance of a violation of code that could expose them to liability.
When Can an Indiana Equine Attorney Help?
Section 2 of the Code Chapter discusses that the law does not limit the liability of an equine activity sponsor who “acts negligently or fails to make reasonable and prudent efforts to promote safety.” To break this down into digestible terms, we need to share essential knowledge of tort law. You may be asking, what is a tort? Torts are civil wrongs. Some of the most common torts stem from individuals failing to act with a certain standard of duty of care in situations. In other words, they’re negligent.
Back to our question of liability for equine professionals, the Indiana Code explicitly lays out some scenarios where an equine professional could be held liable for injury – even with this sign posted around the barn. If a professional isn’t performing according to the industry’s standards or making reasonable efforts to promote safety, they can be held liable in court. For example, according to the code, knowingly or should have known they were providing tack that was faulty and ultimately caused the injury is one reason for a professional to still be liable.
Indiana recognizes under the law that equestrian sports are inherently risky and that it isn’t a professional’s responsibility if some of those risks become real for a participant. Simultaneously, someone like a barn owner, facility manager, trainer, or instructor has the obligation under the law to do everything necessary to promote safety and make reasonable efforts to offset the risks. Just because the equestrian sport is risky doesn’t mean a professional is protected when they provide faulty tack, fail to maintain a facility, or fall short in delivering instruction to less-experienced riders.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a horse-riding accident and believe negligence played a role, the attorneys of Bennet, Boehning, and Clary are here to be your advocates. The same applies to equestrian professionals who believe they are wrongly accused of negligence. We take pride in leveraging our expertise to protect clients and ensure your situation’s small details are used to speak your case. Please contact us if you need an equine lawyer near you to fight on your behalf.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.