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Legislature grants immunity to horse owners: maybe too many were leaving the state

This month, the Republican-dominated Legislature granted broad immunity to "equine professionals" and "equine activity sponsors."  Twenty years ago Michigan adopted the Equine Activity Liability Act that granted limited immunity to horse owners, but that immunity did not apply where there was documented negligence (the failure to act as a "reasonable person"). 

The new act, adopted in 2015, however, contains no exception:  it grants immunity to horse people unless they demonstrate a "willful or wanton" indifference to an expected injury.  They are  no longer accountable for negligence--like the rest of us.  The special influence Michigan judiciary has previously ruled that these "aggravated negligence" standards raise the threshold for liability well above lack of due care to an actual expectation of injury that is ignored. 

It is hard to say just why we need to grant special protection from ordinary negligence to "equine professionals."  Is it because horses cannot hurt a person or damage a car if struck while loose on the highway?  Is it because they are a Yuppie female teen's best friend and status symbol?  Is it because "equine professionals" were leaving the state in droves because of liability claims?  (We couldn't find one in the last few years' of reported cases...)  Or is it simply because the horsie industry has a lot of money and paid lobbyists who can buy special protection while the rest of us aren't looking?

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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