A commonly asked question in the equine world is “what is my liability if someone trespasses onto my land and gets hurt by my horse?”
Typically, if we invite someone onto our land, we must take some care to keep them safe. But when someone enters our land without our permission, we still have some degree of care we must take. Some states have laws that find you cannot be sued if someone gets hurt while trespassing, period. Other states say that you still have some degree of liability. There have been equine law statutes enacted in some states that relieve owners of liability if someone gets hurt on their property within the typical occurrence of horse related activities if they post such a sign on the property. But we all know that some children are too young to read these sign, or even if they can, are unable to comprehend the severity of the situation. Imagine if you will, your neighbor’s child decides to come onto your property to see your horses. They are beautiful and majestic creatures that children would love to be close to. After all, what little girl does not want to ride a pony? But what happens if she gets hurt? Can you be sued? Well, as with many things in the law, there is no simple answer.
A number of courts have found that a child can find a horse to be an attractive nuisance, thereby creating a greater degree of responsibility on the owner to make sure individuals, including trespassers, do not get hurt by it on their land. Additionally, the courts will look at how foreseeable it was the child would enter the property and what reasonable steps, if any, the landowner took to prevent trespassing and to prevent harm to the child.
So what is the law in your state? Well, it depends. And since this discussion focuses on a general discussion of the material presented, it is not a comprehensive discussion going through every state’s specific laws therefore it should not be considered binding legal advice.