Almost every state in the Union has some form of equine immunity statute. However, Maryland is one of just two states (the other being California) that does not have an equine immunity statute. An equine immunity statute is a law that is passed to protect the horse industry from liability that may arise from the inherent risks of caring for horses, riding horses, and observing horse races. Generally, an equine immunity statute provides that those who own or ride horses professionally cannot be liable for injuries caused by the horse.
Before getting into why Maryland does not have an equine immunity statute, a recent case illustrates how equine immunity statutes impact an injury victim’s ability to recover for horse-related injuries. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a spectator at a youth horse race. Rather than sit along the track where most spectators observed the race, the plaintiff watched right along the track’s edge, near where the exit to the track was located. The plaintiff watched as the horses went around several times without incident, however, on about the fourth lap, the defendant’s horse struck the plaintiff.
The defendant was a young girl who had tried to stop the horse from crashing into the plaintiff, but was unable to do so. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the young girl’s family, and the girl’s family filed for summary judgment, arguing that the state’s equine immunity law precluded the plaintiff from filing her claim. The court agreed, and dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, noting that the plaintiff was injured due to the risks that are inherent in watching a horse race.