Related Practices

Important Victory For Equine Law Division

Elaine K. Fresch, head of SB's Equine Law Department, and Melanie Smith, Of Counsel, have once again been successful in obtaining a summary judgment in favor of their client, a riding school, based on the express release of liability that Plaintiff's mother had signed. 

Plaintiff, a minor at the time of the accident, began to take riding lessons from SB's client as she wanted to compete for her high school equestrian team. Plaintiff leased a 24-year-old school horse from SB's client in order to take lessons and learn how to jump. Plaintiff's mother signed two releases-a waiver of liability containing assumption of risk language warning of the risks of riding, and a lease for the horse which also contained a waiver of liability. 

In Plaintiff's third lesson, she lost her balance after going over a very small jump and fell off. She claimed she sustained a traumatic brain injury and was claiming damages in excess of $5.55 million, plus future earnings and future medical expenses, as she claimed she had memory issues, had an inability to concentrate, and was unable to walk for several months. 

Plaintiff finally admitted her mother had signed the two Releases after the Court awarded monetary sanctions against her and counsel for failure to admit or deny the Request for Admission. Thereafter, Elaine and Melanie brought a summary judgment motion based on both the express and implied assumption of risk doctrines. The court granted the Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that Defendant "had persuasively" argued that the two releases barred the action and that Plaintiff had implied assumed the risk of falling off the horse. The court sustained Elaine and Melanie's objections to Plaintiff's equine expert's declaration as he testified about a video that was not previously produced, and further sustained SB's objections to Plaintiff's mother's declaration as it contradicted her deposition testimony.

This was a significant victory as it again reinforced that releases can be upheld, which is imperative to horse trainers, horse owners and riding schools who could not operate if they could be held responsible every time someone fell off while riding a horse. 

If you would like to learn more about this ruling or our Equine Practice, please contact Elaine at

Selman Breitman provides this information for educational purposes. Case results depend upon a variety of factors unique to each case. Case results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case. This information should not be construed or relied on as legal advice or to create a lawyer-client relationship.