If you fall off a horse and hurt yourself, is it always someone else’s fault?

The answer, according to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, is “no.”

In November 2007, Linda DeShields and her husband were vacationing at a timeshare they owned in Pennsylvania. During a trail ride, DeShields was injured when she was thrown by Jack-In-The-Box, the horse supplied to her for the ride Bar-U Farm, Inc. Plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that her injuries were the result of negligence. According to the District Court opinion:

“Specifically, plaintiff (DeShields) asserts that initially Jack-In-The-Box walked very slowly, and she fell behind the others on the ride Ð her husband and the trail ride leader, Doreen Wehr. Eventually, plaintiff’s horse overtook her husband and Wehr. A short time later, the horse speeded up to a trot or gallop, and plaintiff was thrown off the horse, striking the ground.”

Early Dismissal

Before the case made it to trial, Bar-U Farm and the other defendants asked the District Court to dismiss the lawsuit on three grounds: first, that the Pennsylvania Equine Liability Law provided a defense by mandating that a participant in an equine activity assumed the risks of being injured; second, that common law provided a similar assumption of the risk defense, even if the Equine Activity Law did not apply in this case; and, finally, that there was no evidence of negligence in the record, and therefore no way for DeShields to prove her case at trial.

The Pennsylvania law,