In a recent case, after a 19-year-old was injured while riding a horse at a summer camp, he brought a lawsuit against the individual who provided the horses. The boy had been riding the horse at the camp where he worked as a camp counselor in the equine activities program. He had been out on a trail ride with the horse when the horse jumped over a small stream. The boy lost his balance and fell off the horse, and the horse landed on top of him. The defendant had contracted with the summer camp to provide the horses.
The boy sued, alleging negligence and willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons riding the horse. The defendant moved for summary judgment, based on the immunity granted by Georgia’s Equine Act. The Equine Act limits the liability of those involved in equine activities but provides for some exceptions. The boy argued that two exceptions applied in his case.
First, he claimed the defendant was liable because he provided an animal but failed to make reasonable efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the activity and to safely manage the animal. The court found that in this case, the defendant provided the horse to the camp, and the camp supervisor assigned the particular horse to the boy. Thus, since the defendant did not assign the horse to the boy himself, the exception did not apply. Another exception exists when a person willfully or wantonly disregards the safety of the participant. Here, this horse had been provided to the camp for two previous summers, and there was no evidence of previous incidents with this horse. As a result, the second exception also did not apply. The court noted that the boy’s injuries resulted from the inherent risks of equine activities, which is the type of injury the Act was meant to protect. Accordingly, the boy could not recover from the defendant under the Act.