As a litigator, Chuck Mancuso was a longtime practitioner in the area of equine law. He now brings that experience to his role as a mediator. He begins this series of blog posts with some advice. To schedule a mediation with Chuck, please visit our online scheduling page or call his case manager, Cathy McCleary, at 800-863-1462.
Mediation Counsel Chuck Mancuso
Most of us who practice equine law recognize the language in Florida Statute 773.02 and the resulting posting of the following sign at all stables, barns and show grounds:
“WARNING -- Under Florida Law, an equine activity sponsor, or equine professional is not liable for an injury to, or the death of, a participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risk of equine activities.”
At first it appears 773.02 provides all inclusive protection for the facility, owners and professionals. However, there is a hole in 773.02 large enough to drive a van of lawyers through. The five words “Except as provided in s. 773.03” practically shreds all the protection afforded in detail in the remainder of the statute.
Most general practitioners and clients believe 773.02 provides blanket coverage but I have never seen a defendant's motion to dismiss or summary judgment granted when the plaintiff has crafted a complaint to mirror the language found within the exceptions detailed in 773.03 (2). The subsection exceptions will involve allegations regarding:
And the exception that not only opens the liability/exposure door but knocks it down:
(d)-Prudent Person standard
You and your clients must be made aware of the multitude of exceptions to the equine liability protection statute. Florida Statute 773.02 is an excellent shield for your clients but it must be held high. Once they let it down there will be no protection afforded from liability of exposure. Plaintiff attorneys will get to the jury if they artfully craft their complaint to utilize the language found within 772.03.
If 773.02 and 773.03 are read together there are no guarantees for either side. The exceptions provided in 773.03 certainly open the door for claims to be made but the original statute does provide a great deal of protection if your clients hold high standards and run a professional operation.