Pa. Limits Liability of Horse Stable Owners

December 27, 2005

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has signed a bill limiting lawsuits against the owners of horse stables.

Supporters say the legislation, which goes into effect in 60 days, was crucial to protect the state’s nearly $10 billion equine industry. Pennsylvania had been one of six states that did not limit liability for horse operations.

“There should be a reasonable recognition of risk involved with equine activities,” said Rendell’s press secretary, Kate Philips. “But we must also recognize that people in the industry should be able to succeed without the burden of prohibitive insurance costs.”

Although no figures are available, industry experts say a significant number of riding stables has closed or abandoned horseback-riding lessons in the last decade. The stables that remained open faced escalating premiums from a shrinking pool of insurance companies that offered equine coverage.

The law Rendell signed last Friday passed both chambers of the Legislature overwhelmingly last month. It does not provide immunity if a child is injured by a horse, nor will it limit a lawsuit if negligence is involved. It also requires stables to post warning signs about the risk involved with large animals.

Michael Marino, who runs the Red Buffalo Ranch in Skippack, said he has been sued twice in seven years over minor incidents and his insurance premiums have gone from $3,000 to $16,000.

“This should help,” Marino said. “We were sitting ducks until now.”

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