How Does Indiana’s Equine Immunity Statute Work and When Does It Apply?

As a general rule, when one party’s negligence results in another’s injury, the injury victim can file an Indiana personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party in hopes of obtaining financial compensation for their injuries. However, the Indiana state legislature has carved out several exceptions in which certain activities cannot legally be the basis for a personal injury action. Equine activity is one such area of the law.

Equine activity is that which is related to horses and similar animals. Commonly, equine activities refer to boarding, caring for, showing, and riding horses. Under Indiana Code section 34-31-5-1, “an equine activity sponsor or equine professional” cannot be liable for the injury or death of any participant resulting from the risks inherent with the activity. A recent state appellate case illustrates the type of issues that can come up in an Indiana horseback riding accident.

According to the facts of the case, the plaintiff was watching a youth horse race. While the area where the race was held provided a space for spectators, the plaintiff watched the race from a different vantage point. Specifically, the plaintiff chose to watch the race by a barn that was closer to the exit of the area. From where the plaintiff watched the race, she was between five and 15 feet from the track.

The plaintiff watched as the defendant rider made several laps without issue. However, on the rider’s fourth lap, the horse failed to obey the rider’s commands, and the horse ran into the plaintiff. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result, and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the rider’s parents because the rider was only ten years old.

The state where the accident occurred has an equine immunity statute stating that anyone engaged in equine activities is immune from liability that may arise from the injury or death of another participant or spectator. Here, the court made the following determinations:

  • The defendant was participating in equine activities at the time of the accident;
  • The plaintiff was a spectator of equine activities; and
  • The plaintiff’s injury was the result of a risk that is inherent in equine activities.

As a result, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

Indiana’s Equine Liability Statute

Unlike the statute discussed in this case, Indiana’s equine immunity statute provides immunity only to “equine activity sponsors” and “equine professionals,” rather than offering protection to anyone engaged in equine activities. This will likely result in narrower immunity because, presumably, amateur riders are not immune. Similarly, the immunity conferred under section 34-31-5-1 only applies if the would-be plaintiff is determined to be a “participant” in the equine activities.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Horseback Riding Accident?

If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in an Indiana horseback riding accident, or any other type of accident involving equine activities, contact the dedicated Indiana personal injury lawyers at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse. At our Indiana law firm, we proudly represent injury victims and their family members in all types of injury claims, including Indiana car accident and slip-and-fall claims. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.