Senator SHIRLEY K. TURNER
District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)
Revises equine animal activities law in accordance with recommendations of New Jersey Law Revision Commission to clarify responsibility and liability issues.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning equine animal activities and amending P.L.1997, c.287.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 2 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-2) is amended to read as follows:
2. As used in this act, P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-1 et seq.):
"Equestrian area" means all of the real and personal property under the control of the operator or on the premises of the operator which are being occupied, by license, lease, fee simple or otherwise, including but not limited to designated trail areas, designated easements or rights-of-way for access to trails, and other areas utilized for equine animal activities.
"Equine animal" means a horse, pony, mule or donkey.
"Equine animal activity" means any activity that involves the use of an equine animal and shall include selling equipment and tack; transportation, including the loading and off-loading for travel to or from a horse show or trail system; inspecting, or evaluating an equine animal belonging to another person whether or not the person has received compensation; placing or replacing shoes on an equine animal; and veterinary treatment on an equine animal.
["Inherent risk or risks of an equine animal activity" means those dangers which are an integral part of equine animal activity, which shall include but need not be limited to:
a. The propensity of an equine animal to behave in ways that result in injury, harm, or death to nearby persons;
b. The unpredictability of an equine animal's reaction to such phenomena as sounds, sudden movement and unfamiliar objects, persons or other animals;
c. Certain natural hazards, such as surface or subsurface ground conditions;
d. Collisions with other equine animals or with objects; and
e. The potential of a participant to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to injury to the participant or others, including but not limited to failing to maintain control over the equine animal or not acting within the participant's ability.]
"Operator" means a person or entity who owns, manages, controls or directs the operation of an area where individuals engage in equine animal activities whether or not compensation is paid. "Operator" shall also include an agency of this State, political subdivisions thereof or instrumentality of said entities, or any individual or entity acting on behalf of an operator for all or part of such activities.
"Participant" means any person, whether an amateur or professional, engaging in an equine animal activity, whether or not a fee is paid to engage in the equine animal activity or, if a minor, the natural guardian, or trainer of that person standing in loco parentis, and shall include anyone accompanying the participant, or any person coming onto the property of the provider of equine animal activities or equestrian area whether or not an invitee or person pays consideration.
"Spectator" means a person who is present in an equestrian area for the purpose of observing equine animal activities whether or not an invitee.
(cf: P.L.1997, c.287, s.2)
2. Section 3 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-3) is amended to read as follows:
3. A participant and spectator are deemed to assume the inherent risks of equine animal activities [created by equine animals, weather conditions, conditions of trails, riding rings, training tracks, equestrians, and all other inherent conditions] , meaning those dangers that are an integral part of equine animal activity, including:
(1) the propensity of an equine animal to behave in ways that result in injury, harm, or death to nearby persons;
(2) the unpredictability of an equine animal’s reaction to such phenomena as sounds, sudden movement, and unfamiliar objects, persons, or other animals;
(3) risks created by weather or certain natural hazards, such as surface or subsurface ground conditions;
(4) collisions with other equine animals or with objects; and
(5) the potential of a participant or other person to act in a negligent manner that may contribute to injury to the participant or others, including, but not limited to, failing to maintain control over the equine animal or not acting within the participant’s ability.
Each participant is assumed to know the range of his ability and it shall be the duty of each participant to conduct himself within the limits of such ability to maintain control of his equine animal and to refrain from acting in a manner which may cause or contribute to the injury of himself or others, loss or damage to person or property, or death which results from participation in an equine animal activity.
(cf: P.L.1997, c.287, s.3)
3. Section 5 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-5) is amended to read as follows:
5. The assumption of risk set forth in section 3 of this act, P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-3), shall be a complete bar of suit and shall serve as a complete defense to a suit against an operator by a participant for injuries resulting from the assumed risks, notwithstanding the provisions of P.L.1973, c.146 (C.2A:15-5.1 et seq.) relating to comparative negligence, unless an operator has violated his responsibilities under this act, P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-1 et seq.), in which case the provisions of P.L.1973, c.146 shall apply. Failure of a participant to conduct himself within the limits of his abilities , and to adhere to the duties, as provided in section 3 of this act, P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-3) shall bar suit against an operator to compensate for injuries resulting from equine animal activities, where such failure is found to be a contributory factor in the resulting injury, unless the operator has violated his responsibilities under this act, P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-1 et seq.), in which case the provisions of P.L.1973, c.146 shall apply.
(cf: P.L.1997, c.287, s.5)
4. Section 9 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-9) is amended to read as follows:
9. [Notwithstanding any provisions of sections 3 and 4 of this act to the contrary, the following actions or lack thereof on the part of operators shall be exceptions to the limitation on liability for operators:
a. Knowingly providing equipment or tack that is faulty to the extent that it causes or contributes to injury.
b. Failure to]
The operator shall have the responsibility to:
(1) maintain in good condition all equipment and tack used in equine animal activities;
(2) inspect all equipment and tack on a regular basis to ensure the equipment and tack are in good condition;
(3) make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the participant's ability to [safely] manage the particular equine animal, based on the participant's representation of his ability, or the representation of the guardian, or trainer of that person standing in loco parentis, if a minor[.
c. A case in which the participant is injured or killed by a known dangerous latent condition on property owned or controlled by the equine animal activity operator and for which warning signs have not been posted.
(4) make reasonable inspections of the property owned, controlled, or used by the operator for equine animal activity, in order to: discover dangerous conditions on that property, eliminate the dangerous conditions or post warnings signs when elimination is not practicable, maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and refrain from creating conditions that would render the property unsafe;
(5) refrain from any act or omission [on the part of the operator] that constitutes negligent disregard for the participant's safety[, which act or omission] and causes [the] injury[,]; and
(6) refrain from causing intentional injuries to the participant [caused by the operator].
Nothing in sections 3 and 4 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-3 and 4) shall be deemed to insulate an operator from any of the responsibilities imposed upon the operator by this section.
(cf: P.L.1997, c.287, s.9)
5. Section 10 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-10) is amended to read as follows:
10. All operators shall post and maintain signs on all lands owned or leased thereby and used for equine activities, which signs shall be posted in a manner that makes them visible to all participants and which shall contain the following notice in large capitalized print:
"WARNING: UNDER NEW JERSEY LAW, AN EQUESTRIAN AREA OPERATOR IS NOT LIABLE FOR AN INJURY TO OR THE DEATH OF A PARTICIPANT IN EQUINE ANIMAL ACTIVITIES RESULTING FROM THE INHERENT RISKS OF EQUINE ANIMAL ACTIVITIES, PURSUANT TO P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-1 et seq.)."
All such signs shall list, underneath the capitalized print, the duties of participants and the responsibilities of the operator as set forth in sections 3 and 9 of P.L.1997, c.287 (C.5:15-3 and 9).
Individuals or entities providing equine animal activities on behalf of an operator, and not the operator, shall be required to post and maintain signs required by this section.
(cf: P.L.1997, c.287, s.10)
6. This act shall take effect on the 90th day following enactment.
This bill revises the equine animal activities law to codify the recommendations of the New Jersey Law Revision Commission in its “Equestrian Activities Liability Act” report, issued in May 2014. Specifically, the revisions address the ambiguities or conflicts between the inherent risks language and the language used to describe the acts on the part of the operator of an equine animal activity that can result in the imposition of liability for injuries.
To address the ambiguity issue identified by the New Jersey Supreme Court, the commission suggests a limited structural redrafting of the law with limited changes to the language. It is the goal of the commission to remedy the potential confusion created by the conflicts between the broad language of the inherent risks, identified in N.J.S.A.5:15-3, and the broad language used to describe the acts on the part of the operator that can result in the imposition of liability pursuant to N.J.S.A.5:15-9.