Appellate Division, Fourth Department
Horseback Riding — Assumption of Risk
Vicious Propensity — General Release
Vanderbrook v. Emerald Springs Ranch
Appealed from Supreme Court, Wayne County
Background: The plaintiff commenced an action seeking damages for injuries sustained while riding a horse on a guided trail ride on the defendant’s premises. The plaintiff injured her leg and hip when the plaintiff’s horse brushed up against a tree. The defendants appealed from the denial of their motion for summary judgment.
Ruling: The Appellate Division affirmed. The court held that the deposition testimony that the plaintiff was instructed to push off from the trees if the horse walked to closely to the trees on the single-file woodland trail raised a question of fact whether the defendant’s knew of the horse’s propensity to walk too closely to the trees. Further, section 5-326 of the General Obligations Law rendered any release from liability void. Finally, an issue of fact was raised with regard to whether the defendant unreasonably increased the risks of horseback riding by using a bitless bridle on the horses, which did not provide plaintiff with the ability to control the horse.
Stephen Davoli of the Sugarman Law Firm for the defendants-appellants; Paul D. Vacca of Pheterson & Pheterson for the plaintiff-respondent