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Am I liable as a boarder if my horse gets out??

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  • Am I liable as a boarder if my horse gets out??

    I was reading the other thread on liability and a question arose. If I board on a property and my horse gets out and hurts someone, am I liable or is it the BO?

  • #2
    You would need to check with the laws in your state. Here in Vermont I had my mare boarded. She went through a gate and was killed in teh road. The farmer who was boarding her had the responsibility of keeping her safe since he was accepting money from us for her board. His insurance paid off the driver who hit her. No one paid for my mare. If they are kept on your property you are the one responsible but not if boarding. The police told me if he had been keeping my horse as a favor and not accepting $ for her board that I would have been responsible.


    • #3
      Depends on how it happens. If you are riding and the horse throws you and runs into the road, you are liable. If the horse runs through inadequate fencing and ends up in the road, the barn is liable. Actually, even if the fence is adequate, the barn is liable for any expenses incurred by a motorist-but, they are not liable to pay for your horse unless you can prove they were negligent.

      However, if your horse bites/kicks, etc. someone while boarded, you ARE liable. Kinda like the crappy law where if someone trespasses on your land and your dog bites them, they can sue. Most boarders are unaware of this - my boarding contract explicitly points this out.
      JB-Infinity Farm


      • #4
        These days it depends not so much on local laws as who has the best lawyer!

        Even though the barns where I boarded are very well run and carry insurance, I also carried liability insurance just in case. It's also a very good idea NOT to let anyone know you have it, because liability insurance is very effective lawyer bait.
        The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.
        Winston Churchill


        • #5
          Originally posted by Frank B View Post
          These days it depends not so much on local laws as who has the best lawyer!

          Even though the barns where I boarded are very well run and carry insurance, I also carried liability insurance just in case. It's also a very good idea NOT to let anyone know you have it, because liability insurance is very effective lawyer bait.
          Well, I agree, although I think it doesn't necessarily depend on the best lawyer as much as the degree of damage. If your horse gets out of its turnout area and causes a fatal car accident, the barn owner's insurance might be insufficient to cover a legal claim made by the accident victim's family, and anyone (and everyone) who might be involved could theoretically be targeted for additional claims. Compared to if your horse causes property damage on the neighbor's farm -- I don't think you would have to worry about being sued.

          I think it might be worth finding out what types of insurance is available to you as a boarder, and also making sure your barn owner is properly insured. I'm not sure it makes any difference whether people know you have insurance or not; I would imagine that the laywers will know how to find the BO, BM, owner....etc. whether they are insured or not.


          • #6
            Oh WaningMoon, how sad. I'm so sorry for your loss, that had to be horrible for you.

            I'm definitely no lawyer, but I would assume this could vary from state to state and probably also from boarding contract to boarding contract depending on how explicit each boarding contract is written.

            I would assume in many states it woould be the fault of the BO/barn insurance holder because if a horse gets out the BO is the one responsible for securing the animal. Both in keeping the animal secured on the property for the owner and for public safety.

            Maybe in a case like a horse kicking someone on the property and injuring them, it could then be the horse owner being liable.

            I know here in CT if my horses get out and get hit by cars, it's my fault. (horses at home though) Some states it's the driver's fault for hitting livestock, other states it's the horse owner's fault. I would assume if I were boarding other horses here and one got out, it would be my insurance picking up the tab on that and not the horse owner if the person who hit the horse decided to sue. (or more likely their insurance would come after mine no matter what the car driver wanted to do)

            I say "assume" because I'm not boarding at all and haven't asked our insurance guy who would be at fault for something like that. It makes sense to me according to our CT state laws about securing livestock that it would most likely be the barn owner's liability rather than the horse owners. I couldn't expect a horse owner to be here 24/7 making sure their horse never got out and I also couldn't expect them to do repairs or upgrades to my fencing to make sure their horse never gets out. I would guess it would be my fault if I were boarding others here and one got out because the horse owner would have little to no possible way to control that as a non-property owner. Not to mention I'd be getting paid to not only care for their horse's needs but to keep them safe as possible. And the state would expect me as the caretaker of the animals (and a business owner) to keep the public safe from the animals I'm getting paid to keep.

            But when I did board my horses out, I also did carry liability insurance on them as a safety precaution to ourselves and our finances. I don't think it was required when we were boarding, but we added the horses to our homeowner's anyways. Never hurts to be overinsured.
            You jump in the saddle,
            Hold onto the bridle!
            Jump in the line!


            • #7
              Hummm interesting...

              Makes me wonder now. I live in Va., and years ago I had horses on a leased pasture owned by some corporation headquartered in another state.

              Some tenents rented the house on the grounds, but had nothing whatsoever to do with the horse barn/pasture. They had a big, stupid lumbering Labrador (redundant?) kept in a pen in their yard, who frequently got loose.
              There is absolutely a very strict leash law in this county, with stiff fines for dog owners who do not keep their charges contained.

              Anyway, one day when I was at the barn, the dog owner approached me complaining that his dog got kicked by one of my horses, and he wanted ME to pay the vet bill!!! He admitted the mutt was out chasing the horses, but amazingly he seemed to think that was just fine, what dogs do, so suddenly the dog's injury is MY responsibility. I am aware that in our county, live stock owners are allowed to shoot dogs chasing their animals, and I told him this; added that he was lucky I didn't catch the dog in the act of running my horses. No, of course I wouldn't pay his vet bill!

              Nothing came of it... I wasn't asked again to pay, and he kept the dog contained in its kennel from then on. Makes me wonder if he was just trying to bluff me into paying the vet bill, knowing he had not a leg to stand on legally, to compel me to cough up? I couldn't get my horses out of there fast enough! Was I responsible, had he persued this?


              • #8
                Some states it's the driver's fault for hitting livestock, other states it's the horse owner's fault.
                Part of that is whether the jurisdiction is a "fence in" or "fence out" state, at least when it comes to a straying livestock causing damage to neighboring property. In a "fence in" situation, it is the owner of the livestocks responsibility to have adequate fencing to contain the animals. In a "fence out" situation, it is the neighbor's obligation to protect his/her property by fencing out unwanted animals.

                I don't know if that applies to vehicular accidents, though. Roads being public byways and not private property.

                Liability with horses has so many variables.

                I recall, years ago, riding with friends along a local road. High center crown, no lines or stripes, definitely not a busy road. 35 mph and coming up on a residential area. Horses and cyclists are required to follow the same rules that automobiles are.

                A car came along, traveling in the same direction we were riding, slowed down and then passed us on our left. One of the horses (not mine, thank goodness!) struck out with a hind leg and kicked out the passenger side window of the car.

                My gut reaction was that the horse shouldn't be out on the road if it would kick a car. The rider of the horse paid for the window repair. All was satisfied between the mortified rider and the rather shaken up driver of the car.

                However, looking back from a "rules of the road" viewpoint, should the car have passed? Is it legal to pass on that kind of road? Would it have passed so closely if it were going around another auto or a cyclist? Would there be a reasonably safe distance away from the horse expected? Given that there was no shoulder (small tree topped bank) where the incident occurred, but a shoulder widened out to a field in 50 yards, should the car have waited until the horses were able to get out of the lane of traffic?
                "If you would have only one day to live, you should spend at least half of it in the saddle."


                • #9
                  Personal Equine Liability Insurance is Cheap

                  I have a farm and I do take boarders. I have Care, Custody and Control on my Commercial General Liability policy, which covers me for the liability associated with boarded horses. Unfortuntely, there are many barns out there that do not carry insurance.

                  As others have noted, the specific circumstances of accident will determine whose insurance carrier will respond, if there is insurance coverage in place. I would not automatically assume that the BO would be liable.

                  Personal equine liability insurance is readily available. It costs about $100 - $150 a year. It can even be cheaper if added on as an endorsement to a mortality policy. I think it is something that is well worth having. Back in the days when I only owned one horse and boarded it, I always carried it because accidents do happen with horses.
                  Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by WaningMoon View Post
                    You would need to check with the laws in your state. Here in Vermont I had my mare boarded. She went through a gate and was killed in teh road.
                    Very sorry about your mare. If it was yesterday or 10 years ago it is still a horribly sad sitaution....


                    • #11
                      Also, whether or not you are liable doesn't really matter if someone wants to sue you. You may ultimately be found not liable, but if the car owner, say, sues you as owner, you'll have to hire a lawyer to defend yourself, and could potentially end up spending thousands only to be found not liable in the end.

                      If you have insurance, the insurance company pays for your defense lawyer, so it is well worth it from that point of view.

                      I also board a few horses on my private farm, and Ironwood, I believe Care Custody and Control covers you for any harm that happens to one of your boarders. So if the horse gets loose on the road and hurts itself, the CCC insurance would cover the bills associated w/the injured horse. It does NOT cover you if that boarder's horse runs into the road, gets hit by a car, and the driver sues you for damage to his vehicle/injuries etc.
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                      • #12
                        In general, the answer is "yes" with some exceptions.
                        However, you can "join"or interplead the BO or barn worker if they are negligent in letting your horse get lose.
                        If horse jumps 6 ft fence, you are probably liable in most states.
                        If BO or worker leaves stall and gate open, you are probably liable but you can make them indemnify you and in states with degrees of liability, proportional that is, instead of strict liability, you can make them pay.
                        If you board with someone that you know does not keep fencing up, gates close, etc., then you are "on notice" of their negligence.
                        Then there's the "last clear chance" rule in some states. And "foreseeable" accidents vs. "unforeseeable" accidents.

                        There's really no one real answer that fits all scenarios. The idea is to keep your horse where the BO and workers are responsible and careful for the protection of your horse and others. And make sure you are insured in case of accidents.