The Texas Equine Activity Limitation of Liability Act was originally passed in 1995 and applied only to equine animals. Forty-six states, all but California, Maryland, Nevada, and New York, have enacted similar equine statutes, although each state’s statute greatly differs in details. The purpose of these statutes are to encourage participation in equine activities, to ensure the public is aware of inherent risks of equine activities, and to provide limited liability to equine facility operators.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature amended the statute to apply to not only equine animals, but to all farm animals. This expanded statute is important for all farm and equine animal owners as well as anyone sponsoring a livestock or horse show or event, as it may offer limited liability if a person is injured during a farm animal activity.
This post will outline the provisions of the Texas Farm Animal Liability Act (“the Act”). The full text of the Act may be found here. Tomorrow’s post will discuss various case examples of how the Act is applied.
What Protection Does the Act Offer?
The Act provides that certain defendants are not liable for property damage, or personal injury or death if each of the Act’s requirements are met.
To Which Animals Does the Act Apply?
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed several amendments to the Act. Most significantly, the Act was expanded to apply to all farm animals, not just equines. A “farm animal” is defined as including an equine animal (horse, pony, mule, donkey, or hinny), bovine animal, sheep, goat, pig, hog, ratite (ostrich, rhea, emu), and chicken or other fowl. See the Act Section 87.001(2)-(2-a).
To What Persons Does the Act Offer Limited Liability?
The limited liability applies to the following defendants:
(1)Farm animal professionals (persons engaged for compensation in instructing a participant or renting to a participant a farm animal for the purpose of riding, driving or being a passenger; renting equipment or tack to participants; providing medical care to a farm animal; or providing farrier services);
(2) Farm animal activity sponsors (persons who sponsor, organize or provide facilities for farm animal activities or operators, instructors, or promoters for facilities where farm animal activities are held);
(3) Livestock producers (person who owns, breeds, raises, or feeds livestock animals);
(4) Livestock show sponsors (groups that sanction livestock shows); and
(5) Livestock show participants (person who registers for and is allowed to compete in a livestock show by showing an animal on a competitive basis, or a person who assists the show participant).
See the Act Sections 87.001; 87.003.
To What Type of Plaintiffs Does the Act Apply?
The Act applies to all “participants” which is defined as “a person who engages in a farm animal activity without regard to whether the person is an amateur or professional or whether the person pays for the activity or participates in the activity for free” and a person who registers for and is allowed to compete in a livestock show or a person assisting the competitor.
An interesting and important question has arisen under Texas law. Does the Act apply to situations where the injured plaintiff is an employee or independent contractor of the farm animal operation? The Texas Supreme Court has not yet addressed this question, but appellate courts to date have found that the Act does not apply to limit liability where employees are injured and does aptly to limit liability where independent contractors are injured. These cases will be discussed in more detail in Part 2 of this series.
To What Activities Does the Act Apply?
The Act applies to all “farm animal activities” which includes shows, fairs, performances, rodeos, or events involving farm animals; training or teaching activities involving farm animals; boarding farm animals; daily care of farm animals; riding, inspecting, evaluating, hauling, loading, or unloading a farm animal belonging to another; informal farm animal activities including rides or hunts; shoeing horses; providing medical treatment to animals; and rodeos and ropings. See the Act Section 87.001(3).
Persons are engaged in farm animal activities if they are riding, handling, training, driving, loading or unloading, assisting in medical treatment of, being a passenger on, or assisting a participant or sponsor with a farm animal.
The Act does not apply to spectators at farm animal activities unless the spectator is in an unauthorized location in the immediate proximity of the farm animal activity. See the Act Section 87.001(1).
To What Causes of Injury Does the Act Apply?
The Act’s limited liability protections apply to any “property damage, injury, or death resulting from the dangers or conditions that are an inherent risk of a farm animal activity or the showing of an animal on an competitive basis at a livestock show.” Further, the Act offers examples of the types of injuries that would be covered: (1) propensity of a farm animal to behaving in a way that may result in personal injury or death to persons around it; (2) unpredictability of farm animal’s reaction to sound, sudden movement, or unfamiliar object, person, or other animal; (3) with respect to equine animals, certain land conditions and hazards including surface and subsurface conditions; (4) a collision with another animal or object; and (5) the potential of a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to the injury of the participant or another.
What Types of Injuries Are Exempt from Coverage?
There are 6 injuries that are expressly not covered by the Act, meaning that there is no limited liability offered if the injuries are caused by any of these situations:
(1) Injury was caused by faulty tack or equipment provided by defendant and defendant knew or should have known it was faulty;
(2) Defendant provided the farm animal to the participant and did not make reasonable effort to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the farm animal activity;
(3) Injury was caused by a dangerous latent condition of the land and the defendant knew of the condition and did not warn the participant;
(4) Defendant acted with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of the participant;
(5) Defendant intentionally caused the injury;
(6) Defendant allowed or invited a non-competitor to participate in an activity connected with a livestock show and the injury resulted from that activity.
Required Signage and Contractual Language
The Act requires a farm animal professional anyone that manages or controls a stable, corral, or arena where farm animal activities are conducted to post a sign clearly visible on or near the stable, corral, or arena containing the following language:
WARNING: UNDER TEXAS LAW (CHAPTER 87, CIVIL PRACTICE & REMEDIES CODE) A FARM ANIMAL PROFESSIONAL IS NOT LIABLE FOR AN INJURY TO OR THE DEATH OF A PARTICIPANT IN THE FARM ANIMAL ACTIVITIES RESULTING FROM THE INHERENT RISKS OF FARM ANIMAL ACTIVITIES.
Additionally, this language must be included in every written contract the farm animal professional enters into with a participant for professional services, instruction, or the rental of tack.
For livestock shows, sponsors who manages or controls a stable, barn, corral, or arena where the show is conducted must place a sign in a clearly visible location near the stable, barn, corral, or arena containing the following language: WARNING: UNDER TEXAS LAW (CHAPTER 87, CIVIL PRACTICE & REMEDIES CODE) A LIVESTOCK SHOW SPONSOR IS NOT LIABLE FOR AN INJURY TO OR THE DEATH OF A PARTICIPANT IN A LIVESTOCK SHOW RESULTING FROM THE INHERENT RISKS OF LIVESTOCK SHOW ACTIVITIES.
In very basic summary, the Act provides that defendants will not be liable for property damage, injury, or death to participants in farm animal activities or livestock shows resulting from the inherent dangers associated with farm animal activities or livestock shows.
Stay tuned for a detailed discussion of cases applying this statute in Part 2 of this series.