Liability Releases: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again!

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Many boarding stables and other equine businesses require customers and guests to sign liability release forms. But we’ve all heard that “liability releases aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.” Is that true? Will those release forms actually protect the business from liability?

How Do Liability Releases Work?

Liability releases, also known as hold harmless agreements and waivers, do two very important things:

  • Discourage people from suing you in the first place.
  • And help prevent them from winning if they do sue.

Any liability release can accomplish the first goal. However, the more thorough a liability release is, the more lawsuit deterrent value it has

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Written by:

Rachel Kosmal McCart is the founder and principal attorney of Equine Legal Solutions, PC (ELS), an equine law firm based near Portland, Ore. McCart is a graduate of the Duke University School of Law and licensed to practice in four states: California, New York, Oregon, and Washington. She is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. ELS represents clients in litigation, helps resolve equine disputes, drafts customized equine contracts, represents clients in horse industry disciplinary hearings, and incorporates equine businesses. Learn more at www.equinelegalsolutions.com.

8 Responses

  1. re: Liability Releases: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again!

    The barn I teach at makes everyone sign a waiver.   However, there are a few circumstances that I, as the instructor, think are avoidable accidents.  When snow slides off the indoor ring roof, often horses spook-some rather strongly.  Ex

  2. re: Liability Releases: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again!

    Hi, Ciara.  I haven’t heard of "assessment of risk" being used to refer to a document before.  Without seeing the document, I can’t be certain, but I suspect it’s a liability release that has "assessment of risk" as the ti

  3. re: Liability Releases: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again!

    Can you please comment on why/when an equine facility would choose to use a liability waiver over an assessment of risk? My understanding is that an assessment of risk does the same thing, only it can be applicable to a minor, as long as he/she is suff

  4. re: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again! Liability Releases Can be Enforceable

    A very interesting topic, indeed. Thanks for your reply, Rachel. I look forward to the follow-up articles that B mentioned.

  5. re: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again! Liability Releases Can be Enforceable

    B, thank you for your comments.

    Because I practice in four states, I can only comment on the specifics of law in those states and have to limit my comments to generalities for US law.

    There are two types of liability that someone generall

  6. re: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again! Liability Releases Can be Enforceable

    Carolyn, because a minor cannot sign away their rights (see last section of article above), a liability release signed by the parent offers no protection against the minor suing the barn.  The best such a liability release can do is to have the pa

  7. re: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again! Liability Releases Can be Enforceable

    This varies by state, some states have far more protections for plaintiffs. Some states (like mine) have caselaw that you can’t sign away your right to sue.  Some indemnity clauses are unenforceable.  Also surprised that equine liability stat

  8. re: Not Worth the Paper They’re Written on? Think Again! Liability Releases Can be Enforceable

    When a minor comes of age, is it required to have them sign a new release in light of their updated legal personality? Does the barn/owner hold the burden for ensuring that this happens, or is the release previously signed by the parent assumed to carr

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