In this appeal, Horvitz & Levy LLP successfully defended the grant of summary judgment under the primary assumption of risk doctrine, which shields the participants and sponsors of a recreational activity from liability arising from the activity’s inherent risks.
Plaintiff June Carter brought this negligence lawsuit against Gerald and Anita Heitzler after she fell from a horse at the Heitzlers’ riding facility. Carter alleged that she fell because the rowdy behavior of a nearby horse caused her horse to “spook.” She argued that the Heitzlers should not have permitted the rowdy horse to be ridden when other riders were in the vicinity. Relying on the primary assumption of risk doctrine, the trial court granted summary judgment for the Heitzlers. Carter appealed and Horvitz & Levy represented the Heitzlers on appeal.
The California Court of Appeal (Third District) affirmed. The court agreed that the Heitzlers did nothing to increase the inherent risks of horseback riding, because the risk of a horse being spooked by another horse’s conduct is inherent in the sport. The court reasoned that imposing a duty on stable owners to minimize this risk would chill vigorous participation in equestrian activity.