Court Dismisses Wrongful Death Case, Finding Fatal Accident Involved the Inherent Risks of Horseback Riding

Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving the question of whether a man who died while on a horseback-riding excursion assumed the risks involved with the activity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the type of accident in which the man was involved was the type that is commonly associated with horseback riding. The court determined that the man assumed these inherent risks by agreeing to participate in the activity, and therefore his loved ones could not hold the company that provided the ride legally responsible for his death.

The case illustrates an important legal issue for Washington, D.C. personal injury victims who have agreed to participate in what can be considered a dangerous activity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving wife of a man who died while on a horseback-riding excursion that was provided by the defendant resort. On the day of the accident, the plaintiff’s husband joined about 20 others for a horseback ride. Prior to embarking on the ride, the man signed a release of liability indicating that he was aware that horseback riding presents certain risks, including falling off the horse, and that when these accidents occur, they can result in serious injuries or death.

Once on the horse, the plaintiff got in the back of the line, and the tour began. The tour began without any issue, but at some point, one of the other horses got spooked by a flock of birds. Several of the horses in the line began running backwards, and the plaintiff’s husband’s horse started to run to the top of a nearby hill. As the man’s horse peaked the hill and then started descending, the man lost his balance and fell from the horse. An employee of the resort was nearby at the time and immediately called for medical assistance, but the plaintiff’s husband died from his injuries.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the resort, claiming that it was negligent in the operation of the excursion. In response, the resort argued that the man had assumed any risk of injury or death associated with horseback riding, and the resort should not be liable in light of the man’s acceptance of the risks.

The court agreed with the resort, finding that the fact that the plaintiff’s husband was aware of the risks involved with horseback riding precluded the plaintiff from holding the resort liable. The court explained that the cause of the accident in this case – a horse getting spooked by wildlife – was a risk that is commonly associated with riding horses. The court found that it was not a stretch to assume that the plaintiff’s husband would be aware that “(1) wildlife, including ducks, would be present on the trail ride; (2) a wild animal might appear suddenly, spooking the lead horse into running away; (3) the other horses might react similarly and run with the lead horse; and (4) the runaway horses may travel over downhill portions of the trail at a fast pace when seeking to escape perceived danger.” As a result, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s wrongful death case against the resort.

Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured on a Washington, D.C. tour, or another pay-to-play activity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While your negligence (or assumption of the inherent risks involved in the activity) may preclude your recovery in some situations, you should not assume that to be the case. The dedicated Washington, D.C. wrongful death lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience assisting victims and their families in pursuing cases against those responsible for their injuries or loss. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Dismisses Premises Liability Lawsuit Against Coffee Shop, Finding Parents Bore the Responsibility to Keep Children Safe, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 19, 2018

Appellate Court Discusses Plaintiff’s Punitive Damages Claim in Recent Dog Bite Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 3, 2018

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