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Rachel Kosmal McCart is a lifelong horsewoman and the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, PC, an equine law firm based in the Portland, Oregon area. Rachel is a member of the New York, California, Oregon and Washington State bars and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Rachel currently competes in three-day eventing.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I Got Hurt, So It Must Be Somebody Else's Fault

Just a quick reminder that our blog readers are welcome (encouraged!) to post comments.

One of today's callers, a barn owner, discussed a situation where her stall cleaner's young son was visiting her property. The boy was running around, ignoring his mother's requests to stay off of the barn loft stairs. Eventually, he tripped and fell, necessitating a trip to the emergency room. The boy's mother thought that the barn owner should pay the tab for the hospital visit because "it happened on her property" and she didn't have health insurance for the boy.

The barn owner was concerned. I walked her through the legal aspects of the situation (in short, to be responsible for the boy's medical expenses, she would have had to be negligent in some way or have owed a duty to the child that had been breached). I suggested that even though it did not appear that she had any liability, she should report the incident to her commercial liability insurance carrier (fortunately, she had commercial liability insurance!). Most insurance companies require insureds to notify them of potential claims within a certain period of time, and failing to do so can mean that the insurer has the right to deny coverage for the incident (or even, in some instances, cancel the policy altogether).

We receive calls like this all the time at ELS. I took a memorable call last year where the caller had scheduled a saddle fitter to come out to her place. Her neighbor asked to be part of the appointment, wanted to try out a saddle, and asked to borrow the neighbor's horse to sit in the saddle. I don't recall the exact details now, but the neighbor fell off due to some circumstances that sounded more like her fault than anyone else's. The neighbor then wanted to sue the clinic host because "she didn't have insurance, nothing personal." Failure to take personal responsibility for your actions is a pet peeve of mine. Even better are the callers who argue with me when I tell them tactfully that we won't take their case, and why (such as the woman who wanted to sue her farrier for not showing up).

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