Court Discusses Maine’s Equine Immunity Statute in Recent Personal Injury Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Maine personal injury case discussing the state’s equine statute. Specifically, the court had to determine if the equine statute precluded the plaintiff’s case against the parents of a ten-year-old girl who struck the plaintiff while riding a horse. As the court notes, this case was the first time the Maine Supreme Court heard a case requiring the court to determine the breadth of immunity provided by the equine-immunity statute.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was observing children race horses at an arena. While there was a designated area for spectators, the plaintiff observed from an area that was closer to the exit. The plaintiff watched as a ten-year-old girl rode around the track several times. However, on the girl’s fourth circuit around the raceway, the girl’s horse collided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell, seriously injuring her wrist, and later filed a personal injury lawsuit against the girl’s parents (the defendants).

In response to the plaintiff’s complaint, the defendants claimed Title 7 Chapter 743 Section 4103-A of the Maine Revised Statutes provides the defendant’s immunity from the plaintiff’s lawsuit. Specifically, that statute provides that any “person engaged in an equine activity is not liable for any property damage or damages arising from the personal injury or death of a participant or spectator resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities.”

The plaintiff acknowledged that the defendants’ daughter was “engaged in equine activities” at the time of the accident. However, the plaintiff argued that the defendants were not immune from liability because the plaintiff’s injuries did not arise out of the “inherent risks of equine activities.”

The court looked to a related statute, section 4101, in which the legislature defined the inherent risks of equine activities, which include the following:

  • The propensity of horses to buck, kick, run, shy, bite, stumble, rear, or fall on a person;
  • The unpredictability of a horse’s reaction to sounds, people, sudden movements, and unfamiliar objects;
  • Certain hazards such as surface and subsurface conditions;
  • Collisions with other horses or objects; and
  • The unpredictable or erratic actions by others relating to equine behavior.

The court explained that the plaintiff’s injury was the result of this very type of activity, and that the defendants’ daughter was not acting recklessly. Thus, the court determined that the defendants were entitled to immunity and dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Consult with an Experienced Mine Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maine horseback riding accident, or any other type of accident involving aggressive or unpredictable animals, contact Peter Thompson & Associates. At Peter Thompson & Associates, we represent injury victims in all kinds of personal injury claims, including Maine dog bite cases and other animal attacks. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on your injuries, call 800-804-2004 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free, and we will not receive anything for our services unless you recover for your injuries.