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N.H. Supreme Court upholds trial court decision in case of 13-year-old stepped on by horse

State Supreme Court

By Chandra Lye | Oct 3, 2018


CONCORD, N.H. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of New Hampshire affirmed a trial court decision that granted immunity from liability to the defendant in a case where a minor was seriously injured in a horseback riding incident.

“The trial court concluded, and we agree, that this accident and Vaneesa (Franciosa)’s injuries resulted from ‘precisely the kinds of risks that are inherent in equine activities,’” the Sept. 21 court decision stated. 

“We agree with the trial court that ‘[t]here is nothing in the record to suggest that (defendant Jessica Grace) Elliott failed to properly train [Vaneesa].’ Accordingly, we conclude that there is no evidence in the record that Elliott acted with ‘willful or wanton disregard’ for Vaneesa’s safety.”

The incident happened on July 20, 2014, when plaintiff Anthony W. Franciosa daughter, Vaneesa, who was 13 at the time, fell off a horse as she tried to dismount and was then seriously injured when the horse stepped on her. 

According to the court decision, Vaneesa was an experienced horse rider with about eight years of experience. She had been taking weekly lessons in that time and also took extra rides outside of her lesson time. 

Anthony Franciosa claims the fact that his daughter was not supervised on the day of the accident makes the defendants Hidden Pond Farm and Elliott liable. 

“The plaintiff argues that the trial court erred when it granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and found that: (1) subject to certain limitations, RSA 508:19 immunizes equine professionals from negligence suits; (2) Vaneesa’s injuries resulted from an inherent risk of equine activity; and (3) Elliott’s conduct does not come within one of the exceptions to immunity set forth in paragraph III of RSA 508:19,” according to the Supreme Court decision. 

However, both the trial court and the Supreme Court disagreed.

“Strictly construing this statute, we conclude that the legislature clearly expressed an intention to generally immunize those engaged in equine activities from negligence suits, with a few narrowly defined exceptions,” the court decision stated. 

“Even assuming that Vaneesa acted in a negligent manner that contributed to her injury, there is no evidence that her negligence could have been reasonably foreseen by Elliott,” the court decision stated.

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