Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 1-1-121 to 1-1-123
§ 1-1-122. Definitions.
(a) As used in this act:
(i) “Inherent risk” with regard to any sport or recreational opportunity means those dangers or conditions which are characteristic of, intrinsic to, or an integral part of any sport or recreational opportunity;
(ii) “Provider” means any person or governmental entity which for profit or otherwise, offers or conducts a sport or recreational opportunity. This act does not apply to a cause of action based upon the design or manufacture of sport or recreational equipment or products or safety equipment used incidental to or required by the sport or recreational opportunity;
(iii) “Sport or recreational opportunity” means commonly understood sporting activities including baseball, softball, football, soccer, basketball, swimming, hockey, dude ranching, nordic or alpine skiing, mountain climbing, river floating, hunting, fishing, backcountry trips, horseback riding and any other equine activity, snowmobiling and similar recreational opportunities;
(iv) “Equine activity” means:
(A) Equine shows, fairs, competitions, performances or parades that involve any or all breeds of equines;
(B) Any of the equine disciplines;
(C) Equine training or teaching activities, or both;
(D) Boarding equines;
(E) Riding, inspecting or evaluating an equine belonging to another, whether or not the owner has received some monetary consideration or other thing of value for the use of the equine or is permitting a prospective purchaser of the equine to ride, inspect or evaluate the equine;
(F) Rides, trips, hunts or other equine activities of any type however informal or impromptu;
(G) Day use rental riding, riding associated with a dude ranch or riding associated with outfitted pack trips; and
(H) Placing or replacing horseshoes on an equine.
(v) Repealed by Laws 1996, ch. 78, § 2.
§ 1-1-123. Assumption of risk.
(a) Any person who takes part in any sport or recreational opportunity assumes the inherent risks in that sport or recreational opportunity, whether those risks are known or unknown, and is legally responsible for any and all damage, injury or death to himself or other persons or property that results from the inherent risks in that sport or recreational opportunity.
(b) A provider of any sport or recreational opportunity is not required to eliminate, alter or control the inherent risks within the particular sport or recreational opportunity.
(c) Actions based upon negligence of the provider wherein the damage, injury or death is not the result of an inherent risk of the sport or recreational opportunity shall be preserved pursuant to W.S. 1-1-109.
Azad v. Mill Creek Equestrian Center, Inc., 2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 11218
Nicole Azad, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Mill Creek Equestrian Center, Inc., Defendant and Respondent.
COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA, SECOND APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION EIGHT
2004 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 11218
December 13, 2004, Filed
NOTICE: [*1] NOT TO BE PUBLISHED IN OFFICIAL REPORTS. CALIFORNIA RULES OF COURT, RULE 977(a), PROHIBIT COURTS AND PARTIES FROM CITING OR RELYING ON OPINIONS NOT CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED, EXCEPT AS SPECIFIED BY RULE 977(B). THIS OPINION HAS NOT BEEN CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION OR ORDERED PUBLISHED FOR THE PURPOSES OF RULE 977.
PRIOR HISTORY: APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. SC070887. Paul G. Flynn, Judge.
CORE TERMS: equestrian, gross negligence, lesson, ring, dive, misconduct, summary judgment, extreme departure, training, riding, sport, horse, standard of conduct, ordinary negligence, instructor, willful, rider, risks inherent, recommended, dismount, manual, horseback riding, jumping, notice of appeal, material fact, totally outside, triable issue, inappropriate, inherently, correctly
COUNSEL: Law Offices of Diane Goldman and Diane Goldman for Plaintiff and Appellant.
Clinton & Clinton, David A. Clinton and Katherine M. Fesler for Defendants and Respondents.
JUDGES: COOPER, P. J.; RUBIN, J., FLIER, J. concurred.
OPINION BY: COOPER
Appellant injured herself falling off a horse during a horseback riding lesson. In this appeal, she challenges the award of summary judgment entered in favor of the equestrian center. Reviewing the record de novo, we find Azad released all claims other than gross negligence and willful misconduct. She does not allege any willful misconduct. Because she provides no evidence of gross negligence, the trial court correctly entered summary judgment. We shall affirm.
[*2] The facts interpreted in the light most favorable to Azad indicate the following. On March 16, 2001, Nicole Azad, an inexperienced rider, had a private horseback riding lesson at Mill Creek Equestrian Center, Inc. (MCEC). Prior to her lesson, she signed a release of liability, which was part of a two page document. Each page of the release contained a heading identifying it as a release.
During Azad’s lesson, she rode a horse named Bruno and was instructed by Sandra Samel. Samel chose to hold the lesson in a ring known as the jumping ring even though it was not the ring commonly used for beginning lessons. At the same time as Azad’s lesson, other riders were in the jumping ring including Courtney Leonard. Leonard rode a horse named Dan, who had been injured. Leonard fell off Dan, and Dan started running. In response to Dan, Bruno started running. Azad was unable to gain control over Bruno. Samel did not instruct Azad to immediately dismount and did not grab Bruno’s reins. Bruno jumped the fence, which was not as high as the standard in the industry. Azad fell off Bruno and fractured her leg.
Azad’s expert, Jill Cooke, opined that the height of the railings in the jumping ring [*3] ranged from two to two and a half feet where industry standard was three and a half feet. Cooke also concluded that “separated schooling areas are recommended.” According to Cooke, Samel should have chosen a different ring for Azad’s lesson, one dedicated to inexperienced riders. Cooke also concluded that Samel should have instructed Azad to dismount Bruno and should have held Bruno’s reigns. Cooke opined that “Ms. Samel’s failure to act promptly and appropriately to protect her student thereby created new risk to [Ms. Azad], over and above those inherent in the sport.”
Azad filed a complaint for negligence against MCEC and alleged that MCEC committed both negligence and gross negligence. MCEC moved for summary judgment.
The trial court granted MCEC’s motion for summary judgment. The court found that Azad’s express waiver was valid and that the assumption of risk doctrine applied. Azad appealed. The notice of appeal was filed after the order granting summary judgment but before judgment was entered. Construing the notice of appeal liberally, we deem this an appeal from the judgment which was subsequently entered. (Levy v. Skywalker Sound (2003) 108 Cal.App.4th 753, 761, fn 7.) [*4]
Azad argues there are material issues of fact regarding whether the release was clear and whether it exempted the challenged conduct. She also argues MCEC increased the risk to Azad beyond that inherent in horseback riding.
I. Express Assumption of Risk
Prior to her horse back riding lesson, Azad signed the following release:
“I agree that in consideration for this stable allowing my participation in this activity, under the terms set forth herein and in the MILL CREEK RULES AND REGULATIONS of which I received a copy, read, and understand, I the rider and the parent or legal guardian thereof if a minor, and on behalf of my heirs, administrators, personal representative or assigns, do agree to hold harmless, release and discharge MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER, its owners, agents, employees, officers, directors, representatives, assigns, members, owner(s) of premises and trails, affiliated organizations, insurers, and others acting on its behalf (hereinafter collectively referred to as associates) of and from all claims, demands, causes of action and legal liability whether the same be known or unknown, anticipated or unanticipated, due to MILL CREEK [*5] EQUESTRIAN CENTER’S and/or its associates ordinary negligence; and I do further agree that except in the event of MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER’S gross negligence and willful and wanton misconduct, I shall not bring any claims, demands, legal actions and causes of action against MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER and ITS ASSOCIATES as stated above in this clause, for any economic and non-economic losses due to bodily injury, death, property damage sustained by me and/or my minor child and/or legal ward in relation to the premises and operations of MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER to include while riding, handling, or otherwise being near horses owned by or in the care, custody and control of MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER, whether on or off the premises of MILL CREEK EQUISTRIAN CENTER. I further understand that all riding engaged in at MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER is solely at my own risk and that MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER is not liable for any injury which may occur to me on its premises, whether bodily injury or otherwise. I further agree to release MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER, its agents and employees from any and all liability for any injuries I may sustain while riding and agree to [*6] indemnify and hold MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER harmless as to all claims, actions, damages, costs and expenses, including attorney’s fees, arising therefrom. [P] The aforesaid release and limitation of liability includes, without limitation, any obligations of MILL CREEK EQUESTRIAN CENTER with respect to consequential damage and negligent behavior of any of its employees. . . .” (Emphasis added.)
A. Validity of the Release
Citing Conservatorship of Estate of Link (1984) 158 Cal. App. 3d 138, 141-142, 205 Cal. Rptr. 513 (Link), Azad argues that the release is not enforceable because it is not readily identifiable as a release. In Link, the court found that a release should be distinguished from other paragraphs of the document; a release should be conspicuous; and a release must clearly convey that rights are being released. (Ibid.)
The release satisfies the Link criteria. It contains the title “LIABILITY RELEASE AND INDEMNITY AGREEMENT.” Each page of the two page document contains a heading which is printed in bold print and underlined “RIDING INSTRUCTION AGREEMENT AND LIABILITY RELEASE FORM.” Above the signature line, in a paragraph [*7] titled “signer statement of awareness,” there is an acknowledgment of understanding the liability release, which Azad signed. Unlike in Link, the release does not appear to be “calculated to conceal and not to warn the unwary.” (Link, supra, 158 Cal. App. 3d at p. 141.)
Azad claims that it is not clear “what conduct is exempted from liability.” She faults the release for “simultaneously purporting to encompass claims based upon [ordinary negligence] and excluding claims based upon [gross negligence].” Azad points out that, in Continental Ins. Co. v. American Protection Industries (1987) 197 Cal. App. 3d 322, 242 Cal. Rptr. 784, a case not involving a release, the court held “in light of the adoption of the doctrine of comparative negligence in California, any attempt to categorize gross negligence separately from ordinary negligence is unnecessary.” (Id. at p. 330.) Continental Insurance Co., however, did not hold that the distinction between ordinary and gross negligence never is relevant or is inherently ambiguous. To the contrary, it recognized that the distinction remained viable where a statute proscribes gross negligence. [*8] (Id. at p. 329.) The express contractual provision distinguishing between ordinary and gross negligence is not inherently ambiguous.
Thus, the release covers conduct other than gross negligence and intentional misconduct. 1 Azad does not allege intentional misconduct. In the next section, we consider whether Azad has provided any evidence of gross negligence.
1 MCEC argues that the “Release was specific enough to warn Appellant, and to convey that Respondents would not be held liable for any physical injury to Appellant.” While the release discusses liability for “any injury” it expressly excludes “gross negligence and willful and wanton misconduct.”
II. Implied Assumption of Risk
By consenting to participate in a sport that includes risks, a person consents to assume the risks inherent in the sport. (Knight v. Jewett (1992) 3 Cal.4th 296, 311.) A person does not consent to a breach of a duty by another that increases the risks inherent in the sport. (Ibid.) [*9] “‘[A] purveyor of recreational activities owes a duty to a patron to not increase the risks inherent in the activity in which the patron has paid to engage. . . .'” (Kahn v. East Side Union High School Dist. (2003) 31 Cal.4th 990, 1005 (Kahn).)
In Kahn, supra, 31 Cal.4th at p. 996, our high court considered the doctrine of assumption of the risk in the context of a lawsuit against a swimming instructor. The court held that a sports instructor breaches a duty of care only “‘if the instructor intentionally injures the student or engages in conduct that is reckless in the sense that it is ‘totally outside the range of the ordinary activity.'” (Ibid.) The court further found evidence of reckless conduct sufficient to raise a triable issue of material fact where a swim coach required a student to dive into a shallow pool without providing her any training, after promising she would not be required to dive. (Id. at p. 996.) The court specifically relied on the following evidence: “the lack of training in the shallow-water dive disclosed by plaintiff’s evidence, especially in the face of the sequences training recommended in the [*10] Red Cross manual submitted by plaintiff; the coach’s awareness of plaintiff’s deep-seated fear of such diving; his conduct in lulling her into a false sense of security through a promise that she would not be required to dive, thereby eliminating any motivation on her part to learn to dive safely; his last-minute breach of that promise under the pressure of a competitive meet; and his threat to remove her from the team or at least the meet if she refused to dive.” (Id. at p. 1012.)
Here, Azad has alleged gross negligence on the part of both her instructor and the equestrian center. Gross negligence is defined as “‘”the want of even scant care or an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct.”‘” (Eastburn v. Regional Fire Protection Authority (2003) 31 Cal.4th 1175, 1185-1186, quoting Franz v. Board of Medical Quality Assurance (1982) 31 Cal.3d 124, 138, 181 Cal. Rptr. 732.) This definition is similar to the standard employed in Kahn – conduct totally outside the range of ordinary activity. Therefore, we consider whether Azad has provided any evidence of an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct. [*11] 2
2 Both parties cite numerous cases decided under an ordinary negligence standard, including this division’s decision in Giardino v. Brown (2002) 98 Cal.App.4th 820. We need not assess the applicability of these cases in light of Kahn because here Azad expressly released claims of ordinary negligence.
Azad relies almost exclusively on evidence from her expert, Cooke. However Cooke’s testimony does not demonstrate an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct. Cooke states that the railing should have been higher, it was “recommended” that a ring be used for only one lesson, the choice of rings was “inappropriate,” and Samel’s response was “inappropriate.” Samel should have “immediately had her student dismount.” Cooke also states that Samel was “inadequately trained,” but provides no basis for this conclusion. Thus, this case is not like Kahn, where the plaintiff provided an established training manual and showed an extreme departure from this manual in that there was [*12] evidence she received no training at all. Because Azad identifies no extreme departure from the ordinary standard of conduct, she fails to raise a triable issue of material fact. The trial court correctly entered summary judgment in favor of MCEC. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850.)
The judgment is affirmed.
COOPER, P. J.
Those familiar with the legal system are more likely to sue, and physicians are very familiar with the system.
The plaintiff and her family went to Montana to vacation and rented horses from the defendant. During the ride, the plaintiff fell off her horse. The article describes numerous damages and loss of income claims before getting to the legal issues of the case. I suspect the plaintiff’s attorney is pushing this issue or even issued a press release to validate to the jury pool how valuable this claim is. (Jury Pool is the group of potential jurors who could be called for a trial.)
Before the trail ride the plaintiff told the guide she had previous experience. Allegedly, she told the guide before the start that her horse was difficult to control. During the ride, her horse “crowded” the horse in front of her. “Eventually, the horse in front of Plaskon [plaintiff] got tired of being crowded and kicked at her horse, which started bucking and threw her off.” The allegations went on to claim:
She claims the lodge, and outfitters were negligent and displayed “willful or wanton disregard” for her safety. Along with seeking actual damages for her medical costs and loss of income, [plaintiff] is asking to be awarded punitive damages.
The defense attorney responded to the reporter by stating that the plaintiff “…signed a waiver of liability and indemnity agreement prior to going on the horseback ride.”
The first problem not brought up in this article is Montana has two statutes that seem to prohibit the use of a release, Mont. Code Anno., § 27-1-701 Liability for negligence as well as willful acts. Which states:
Except as otherwise provided by law, each person is responsible not only for the results of the person’s willful acts but also for an injury occasioned to another by the person’s want of ordinary care or skill in the management of the person’s property or person except so far as the person has willfully or by want of ordinary care brought the injury upon the person.
“Want of ordinary care or skill” is a term that could be closely defined as negligence.
And Mont. Code Anno., § 28-2-702 Contracts that violate policy of law — exemption from responsibility.
All contracts that have for their object, directly or indirectly, to exempt anyone from responsibility for the person’s own fraud, for willful injury to the person or property of another, or for violation of law, whether willful or negligent, are against the policy of the law.
This statute says that releases, or waivers, are void in Montana. (See States that do not Support the Use of a Release.) And although in most states, a definition of willful injury would mean greater than normal negligence, the statute later says negligence.
Montana does have an equine liability statute that may provide a defense in this case.
Where is this going? Its litigation so that it can go anywhere. Probably, the case will settle, but possibly we may see this posted here after a trial or hearing, and the case is appealed. Either way there was a probably a lack of understanding or too much involvement in the legal profession. (See People familiar with the legal system are more likely to sue) Physicians between training and experience are very familiar with the legal system and in some surveys is the most frequent group of plaintiffs in the US. Lawyers and people with lawyers in their family are also very likely to sue. Be aware when dealing with groups of people familiar with the legal system.
Furthermore, understand what state you are in and what laws may apply to your situation.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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