Unless you can prove that the fence was not adequate to hold horses (ie. it was falling down - boards broken, etc.) then the horse owner is liable. Our boarding contract explicitly states that and most reputable commercial boarding facilities have similar clauses (we aren't even commercial, but our insurance company insists on it).
Similarly, if someone wanders into the facility and starts "petting the horsies" and gets bit, the horse owner is liable. Kind of like if someone wanders onto your property and your dog bites them. Sucks, doesn't it?
Here in NYS the NY Horse Council offers $1,000,000 insurance coverage should such a situation arise-it is included with membership to the Council. Some of my boarders joined ($55/year) for that very reason.
I'm not a lawyer, but as BO to clients who invest a lot of money in the business and who also don't want to be exposed to liability, I've had to consider the same questions you ask.
For you to get the best answer, you should call up your insurance agent--they can advise you on what liabilities you might need to protect yourself from. It is possible for horse owners to buy inexpensive policies that will protect them in the event their horse injures someone--a couple of my clients have mentioned having these policies. If you want to get fancy, you could also possibly create an LLC to own your horses for you to protect you from liability. Some clients choose to do nothing. If you have any net worth at all, I would at least look into your options.
In the scenarios you describe, both the BO and you could be at risk for liability. Because you own the horse, you are always potentially liable if it injures someone--bite, kick, gets out in the road. Owners of animals are responsible for the actions of that animal. Yes, if there were a lawsuit, almost certainly your BO would be sued as well, but that would be little consolation for you. This is one reason some barns do not allow boarders to handle or even touch other peoples' horses. Of course, final outcomes of lawsuits depend on a lot of factors, but dealing with and defending a lawsuit, even a completely trivial or unmerited one can be extremely expensive and stressful.
Hopefully your BO carries a "Care, Custody & Control" policy that would kick in if a horse in their care were injured DUE TO THEIR NEGLIGENCE. I put that in caps, because horses get injured all the time due to being horses, and that is definitely NOT covered. Being that horses are delicate and unpredictable animals, I don't think it is terribly easy to prove negligence. I think that you should most safely assume that YOU will be responsible for all of your horse's vet bills and take out a M & M policy if you have concerns about that.
If your horse gets out and gets hit by a car you and the barn owner will probably be sued by the driver of the car... or his insurance company. Whether the BO is liable for the vet bills or value of the horse would depend on a lot of things including the condition of the fence and whether the gate was properly closed, etc... more than likely you would end up having to pay the vet bill unless the BO or his staff was grossly negligent.
As BH says, there are two types of insurance coverage. The BO should have care, custody and control for non-owned horses. It is not very expensive and is an endorsement to a commercial general or farm liability policy. Check with your BO about her coverage. I couldn't imagine running my boarding barn without it for the very same reason the OP cited.
On a personal level, your horse could get loose at a show and injure a third party in the process. You can get personal equine liability coverage for $100 - $150 a year. There "might" be some coverage under the personal liability section of your homeowners policy, but I always carried my own liability. Stuff happens around horses and I used to work with liability insurance claims -- better to have more insurance than you need than not enough.
Just to clarify I meant that if my horse were to get out and subsequently get injured as a direct result of that (hit by a car, etc.).
If you horse were to get out and get hit, I can almost guarantee you that the car owner's insurance company would try to sue both the horse owner as well as the BO for any damage to the car/injuries to driver/passengers. Just an FYI.
Otherwise, you need to carry Mortality/MM insurance on your horse because I'm assuming you wouldn't board your horse at a facility where the fencing wasn't safe
In those scenarios, my horse is covered for liability under my homeowner's (also available under renter's) insurance. You might want to check with yours. He is also covered under a separate mortality-type policy. I use Excalibur Insurance in WI.
Carli dressage. n, the passionate pursuit of perfection by the obsessively imperfect.
I know that it varies from state to state. In Missouri, it depends on who has "custody and control" of the horse. So if my horse is in the barn's pasture and gets out, the barn is liable. If I'm riding my horse, or hand grazing him, or grooming him in crossties and he gets away, I'm liable. In some states, just having a halter on means the horse was in custody and control, so if a haltered horse gets loose and causes an accident, the horse owner and barn aren't liable. I'm sure that this changes from year to year, and people are so sue-happy that I don't know if anything is cut-and-dried anymore.
We had a situation where our horses got out. We had straight line winds take out a section of fence and since the grass is always greener, they decided to romp in my neighbors "park".
Neighbor decided they had done $7,000 worth of damage turfing his property (original estimate was $700). My insurance company informed him that it was an act of God, therefore we were not liable. So, it depends. Now mind you, we check our fences at least once a week. The storm was not predicated; it was a freak February thunderstorm. We also lost a huge sycamore and part of our roof. Now, if we had be negligent, it would have been a different story.
But, if you own horses, you should have a liability policy. You never know what might happen.
I have recently started boarding my horse at a back yard type barn. The BO requested that I have some kind of liability insurance on the horse, not for the horse's value but in case the horse gets out and causes an accident. My renter's insurance will cover me. I also upped the value to $1,000,000 and added the barn owners name and address as an endorsement.
I carry liability insurance for all of my horses, whether living here at home or boarded out. While my homeowner's insurance would provide some liability coverage, I purchased this separate policy to be sure -- it isn't very expensive ($330 for 6 equines, $1 million each occurrence, $2 million aggregate). It gives me peace of mind.
Whether you can be held liable for an accident or not, you can be sued and the expense of defending yourself can be substantial. I'd rather the insurance pay for that rather than me. I look around at the barn and think, who has the deepest pockets (me, the horse owner, or the barn owner...) and I know that's the one most likely to be sued. I'm cynical, but practical!
Also, if you are a member of the USEF, I believe membership includes a liability policy for your horse.
That is only for the amount over and above what the owners personal insurance will pay for on incidents occuring at USEF sanctioned competitions or events.
If you are boarding your horse out, your homeowners policy may or may not insure it if it is in the care of another and off your property. I believe you would need to specifically add it if they would cover-and get it in writing.
And, in most states, if your horse gets out and involved in an accident, you are the primary target as owner of the animal that caused the damage/injury. A few states still have Open Range laws where loose livestock is the liability of the driver, but those are out west.
Be sure to review your boarding contract and look for the specific term "care custody and control" which is a very specific form of liability coverage for non owned animals carried by the barn owner. And look into what they call Private Horse Owner liability insurance. You get a million in liability coverage for a very reasonable premium for exactly this type of thing. I know this got mentioned already but worth restating both.
Just, whatever you do, don't assume anything one way or the other-and don't think it can't happen to you. Be sure to READ whatever policy you do have. READ your boarding contract and ask about the BOs liability...and do look for that CCC.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
Whether you can be held liable for an accident or not, you can be sued and the expense of defending yourself can be substantial. I'd rather the insurance pay for that rather than me.
Whether you are ultimately liable or not, as owner you are likely to get named as a defendant and the costs of defending yourself have the potential to be quite high (like bankrupt yourself high).
My horses are covered under my home owners insurance but my understanding is that this is unusual.
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)
Your barn owner cannot legally mandate you to purchase any insurance for your horse. That is your personal and private financial situation - i'm not saying its not a bad idea to cover your horse, but they can't tell you you have to purchase it; and also the fact that you have liability coverage for your horse doesn't absolve them from any liability caused by any horses boarded on their property. For example about 6 horses from my old barn jumped into the neighbors yard, neighbors sued the owners for damage to their landscaping and gardens, they received a ticket from the county - none of us boarders were involved, fined or sued. But that probably varies from state to state
Actually, BOs can require whatever they want as long as it is spelled out in the boarding contract. You have no legal right to do whatever you want on somebody else's property and they have every legal right to tell you what they want in a contract you sign. If they have the CCC coverage, that implies they care for and have custody and control and the owner does not and stands to absolve the owner of some responsibilty since they have neither custody or control and the animal is cared for off the owner's property.
My last big show barn did require an additional Private Owner Liability policy in addition to their CCC and that was spelled out on the boarding contract...but they only recommended and did not require Major medical and mortality as these did not directly involve any potential liability on their part.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
Years ago, the barn where my sister and I were boarding our horses decided to close off an area between one of the pastures, fenced in post and board, and the riding arena, also fenced in post and board. They decided to use electric tape for the two sides to close off this area. For some unknown reason, one of the employees decided to try turning my sister's gelding out in this area. He had never been in fencing that had electric at this point. Well, he got to running around, hit the electric tape, and up and over the three foot electric tape fence he went. He ran out into the street and got hit by a car. From what I understand there was quite a bit of damage to the car, though the horse just suffered some bruising and got a week off. My sister did not have to pay anything to the car owner or their insurance company. It was kind of a weird situation though, because the people in the car were boarders at BM's other facility...
He ran out into the street and got hit by a car. From what I understand there was quite a bit of damage to the car, though the horse just suffered some bruising and got a week off. My sister did not have to pay anything to the car owner or their insurance company. It was kind of a weird situation though, because the people in the car were boarders at BM's other facility...
Well in today's litigious society, you can bet the car insurance company would have come after SOMEONE if the car owner had turned in a claim...last year I had a boarder fall off of her own horse while dismounting (got her foot caught in the stirrup and fell backwards). Her health insurance company was hell-bent on trying to hold us, the BOs, liable. Luckily the boarder took full responsibility for the accident but the insurance company really pushed it, calling her and sending her various forms until she finally sent them a signed statement saying that she was completely at fault, it was an accident, and she would not participate in any legal actions taken against us.
Bottom line-even if the PEOPLE don't want to take legal action, you can bet the car/health insurance companies will if there is any chance that they can get out of paying.