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.

To achieve the second goal, a liability release has to accomplish two very specific tasks. First, it has to inform the person signing the release form of the risks of the activity they’re about to engage in. Second, the liability release has to get the signer to agree to accept those risks. When a liability release accomplishes these two tasks, it provides the basis for a legal defense known as assumption of the risk.

The More Specific, the Better

Because a well-drafted liability release is intended to inform about risks, it needs to be very specific. For example,  Equine Legal Solutions’ liability release forms include specific provisions about the dangers involved in trail riding, such as wild animals spooking horses. A poorly drafted liability releases will make only generic statements like, “Horseback riding is dangerous,” without saying  why it