Contrary to the sometimes popular – and often misguided—view of New Jersey, the state is more than the sum of its smokestacks and landfills. In actuality, the “Garden State” is surrounded by beautiful beaches, public parks and horse farms. The central New Jersey area is the home of many equestrian centers where horse riding is a significant part of their operations and income. In 1996, the Equine Activities Liability Act was enacted to protect this important industry from questionable lawsuits that sought recovery from the inherent risks of the sport.
Just how far does the Act extend? Should the exceptions to the Act be read expansively to dilute its protections?
In much anticipated decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court recently held that injuries which arise from the unpredictable nature of horses and the dangers that are posed by the terrain over they are ridden are part of the uncontrollable risks immunized by the Act. The limited exceptions to the Act should be read narrowly so that the legislature’s choice to protect this industry is not undermined. Put another way, the immunity granted to the equine industry should not be swallowed up by the limited exceptions contained in the Act.
The Hubner case is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of defense counsel when defending equine related cases. Its language is broad and its message clear: participants voluntarily choose to ride horses at their own risk.
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