Like may other States, Oklahoma recognizes “the state and its citizens derive numerous economic and personal benefits from livestock activities [including equine activities].” OK ST T. 76 § 50.1. As a result, the legislature enacted certain protections for “livestock activities sponsors, participants and livestock professionals” by limiting civil liability for injuries inherent to such activities. Id. However, it is extremely important to understand that the liability protection is not absolute. Notably, there are certain circumstances that are NOT protected by the statute.
First, the Act provides liability protection from “injuries” resulting from the “inherent risks of livestock activities” when the equine professional is acting in good faith and consistent with recognized industry standards. OK ST T. 76 § 50.3. I’ve highlighted “injuries” because the Act specifically does not limit liability from death resulting from the “inherent risks of livestock activities.” You may wonder what is considered “inherent risks of livestock activities.” According the Act, the following would be considered inherent risks of livestock activities:
“dangers or conditions which are an integral part of livestock activities, including but not limited to:
a. the propensity of livestock to behave in ways that may result in injury to persons on or around them,
b. the unpredictability of livestock’s reaction to such things as sounds, sudden movement and unfamiliar objects, persons or other animals,
c. certain hazards such as surface and subsurface conditions unknown to the livestock activity sponsor,
d. collisions with other livestock or objects, and
e. the potential of tack to become dislodged or move in ways that may result in injury to persons on or around livestock activities.” OK ST T. 76 § 50.2
Second, employees of equine sponsors or equine professionals who are injured on the job are covered by workers compensation laws are not covered under this Act.
Third, when an equine professional does not act in good faith; is grossly negligent; intentionally injures a participant; fails to assess the participants knowledge and skill related to horses; provides faulty equipment; or fails to make participants aware of known dangerous conditions in the facility or on the land, the Act does not limit liability.
So if you are an equine professional or own an equine facility, it is important to understand that the Oklahoma Liability Limitation Act does not provide unlimited protection from liability. This blog post provides a very general overview of the Oklahoma Limited Liability Act and does not cover the entire subject matter contained within the Act. You should seek the advice of an attorney for a more detailed explanation of liability specific to your equine operations. In my next blog I’ll cover liability releases and waivers.