Bad news for Mr. Ed.
A lawsuit seeking damages for a child who was bitten on the face by a horse will proceed to trial after the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled today that horses belong to “a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.” Vendrella PPA v. Astriab Family Limited Partnership, et al.
The case dates back to 2006 (… no horse race to justice, this!), when a boy was bitten on the cheek by a horse named Scuppy. The boy’s family sued the farm, claiming negligence in failing to control the horse.
The farm’s lawyer argued the case should be dismissed because Scuppy never bit anyone before. Based on the common law rule, without notice of a specific vicious tendency there is no duty to protect third parties.
This so-called “free bite” rule, as it applies to dogs/dog bites, has been overturned by statute in Connecticut in favor of strict liability – your dog bites, you pay. Prior notice of vicious tendency is not an issue or defense.
Now the Connecticut Supreme Court has made it so for the equine species as well. Horses now, according to the court, are inherently dangerous as a matter of law … and you, horse owner, therefore have a duty to prevent injuries and harm.
Horse owners will be disappointed in the ruling as they are now exposed to increased liability for claims, along with denial of insurance coverage and inability to procure insurance.
I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name … let’s just hope he doesn’t bite!
Read the entire court opinion here: