Equine ruling offers advice for accidents with animals

Posted on Aug 15, 2013

Justice Paul Pfeifer comments on the case of Smith v. Landfair, 135 Ohio St.3d 89, 2012-Ohio-5692, decided December 6, 2012, in an Another Viewpoint article dated August 15, 2013.  In short a Roshel Smith was visiting her father at a stable watching him exercise a horse when a Mr. Landfair was returning his horses from blacksmithing and during the unloading a horse was spooked, pushed Mr. Landfair down to the ground and Ms. Smith ran to assist him when she was kicked in the head and received facial and head injuires. 

Thereafter, Ms. Smith filed a personal injury suit against Landfair alleging he had been negligent in attempting to handle and untrained and unbroken horse known to be skittish, and in failing to seek assistance in unloading the horse from its trailer. Mr. Lanfair responded that he was immune due to Ohio's equine immunity law.

The court sided with Landfair 6-1, indicating Ms. Smith was injured due to an "inherent risk of equine activity."  Justice Pfiefer was the dissenting vote citing Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Consitution "All courts shall be open, and every person, for an injury done to him in his land, goods, person or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law, and shall have justice administed without denial or delay."  He felt Ms. Smith was injured because she went out of her way to help someone she wan't obligated to help and was injured in the process. 

The advice learned from this case is if you encounter a dangerous situation involving a horse watch, don't attempt to help. Justice Pfeifer commented that "Of course, even in that situation, if the horse walked over to the person watching and kicked her, there would be no recovery because that person would be a spectator."

Thus this broad interpretation of the equine immunity law renders Article I, Section 16 of the Ohio Constitution with regard to equine injuries ineffective.

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