Equine Professionals Not Liable for Child’s Horseback Riding Injuries Because They Were Immune Under Alabama’s Equine Activities Liability Protection Act.

The plaintiffs were the parents of a child who was injured when he fell off a horse at the defendants’ riding establishment. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to train and supervise the riders. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the grounds that they were immune from suit under the Equine Activities Liability Protection Act ("the Equine Act"), codified at § 6-5-337, Ala. Code 1975. The Equine Act provided immunity to equine professionals for personal injuries resulting from “equine activities.” On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants were not immune under the Equine Act because the accident fell under the statutory exception of failing to make "reasonable and prudent efforts to determine a rider’s ability to engage safely in horseback riding.” The court disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the defendants. The evidence was undisputed that the injury to the child occurred as a result of the horse becoming startled, or the "propensity of an equine to behave in ways that may result in injury, harm, or death to persons on or around them" and because of the "unpredictability of the reaction  of the horse to other animals" as set forth in Ala. Code § 6-5-337(b)(6)(a) and (b).  Estes v. Stepping Stone Farm, LLC, No. 2120519, 2014 Ala. Civ. App. LEXIS 65 (Ala. Ct. Civ. App. Apr. 11, 2014).