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Denver Personal Injury Claims & Livestock: Understand Your Risk


April 20, 2016

A favorite family activity, especially for urban and suburban residents, is to take the kids to petting farm or livery stable. What many adults fail to realize is that they assume the risk of injury, especially when large livestock, such as horses, are involved. Most states have legislation in place to protect livestock owners from visitors who suffer from a lack of common sense. A Denver personal injury attorney can help you determine whether you or the livestock owner is at fault.

Livestock owners may incorrectly use the term “Bambi syndrome” to describe a person who fails to realize that every animal has a will of its own and who believes that every animal is kind and gentle and wants to be his friend. Common sense dictates these two simple rules: 1) if it has teeth, it can bite; 2) if it has hooves, it can kick. It’s important to understand that “can” does not equate to “will.”

The person visiting the property and the property owner each have a responsibility to act in a reasonable manner. In other words: don’t be stupid. The property owner and/or animal keeper has a duty to use equipment that is appropriate and in good repair. The visitor has a duty to refrain from provoking an animal and to observe rules for safe conduct. Instances that may absolve the property owner or animal keeper from liability are:
  • If you visit a livery stable and misrepresent your skill to the owner who then mounts you on a horse which you do not have the skill to ride.
  • If your child sticks his hand through the farmer’s fence to feed the farmer’s donkey a treat and the donkey bites the child’s fingers.
  • If you decide to take a shortcut through a pasture and are trampled by the bull that lives in the pasture.
There are levels of liability for which the property owner or animal keeper is responsible. The owner/keeper has a higher level of responsibility toward anyone who is invited onto the property than to anyone who trespasses.

According to The Horse magazine, 46 states have statutes “that limit individuals’ liability for horse-related injuries suffered by someone else.” Only California, Maryland, Nevada, and New York do not. Colorado’s equine activity liability statute also includes llama activities and does not excuse the equine or llama sponsor from providing faulty equipment or making prudent and reasonable efforts to ascertain the participant’s ability to engage safely in the activity. These statutes do not equal a “get out of jail free” card for livestock owners and owners of agricultural property, but they do limit their risk of liability and do not absolve the livestock/property owner from the responsibility to ensure common-sense safety procedures.

What about that Sunday drive through the country which is then ruined by hitting a cow running loose on the road? Hitting a half-ton horse or a 2,000 lb. cow is going to cause property damage and will likely cause personal injury. In that type of situation, the court will determine whether the owner or keeper of the animal had knowledge and consent of the animal’s escape from confinement. Evidence or admission of prior incidents of the animal wandering about will work in your favor. However, remember that Colorado has open range, which brings another set of rules into play.

If you or your loved one has been injured in an accident involving livestock, consult Denver personal injury attorney Mark A. Simon to determine fault and responsibility. Call (303) 321-4878.