Thoughts on Show Releases/Waivers

But how do you KNOW this? Don’t you think this is something you should know before agreeing to “indemnify” someone against “any and all claims” of “whatever cause whatsoever”? You are assuming many things. But in contracts, you cannot assume because a court will read the “four corners of the contract” and enforce it as written absent an ambiguity. What would that say about a horse show sponsor if you asked them if they were insured and they refused to answer? I’m not sure people would actually be willing to suffer serious injury by throwing themselves in front of a runaway horse just because they knew they could file an insurance claim. What kind of people do you hang out with?? :wink:

My conclusions are based on contract law according to my husband, a lawyer who is a plaintiff’s lawyer doing personal injury, employment law, and business law (including for an equine business entity and horse owners). Let’s take Kentucky as an example since that is where the show in question takes place. Under Kentucky law, according to DH, “Absent an ambiguity in the contract, the parties’ intentions must be discerned from the four corners of the instrument without resort to extrinsic evidence.” Wagner v. Wagner, 563 S.W.3d 99 (Ky.App. 2018). Assume, for the moment, that the one in a billion chance that the show demands you indemnify them for damages resulting from an occurrence you had nothing to do with. You certainly could argue in your defense a) I didn’t really read the contract; b) I assumed they were insured; c) I didn’t mean what it says; d) I was drunk when I signed it, e) I am unsophisticated in contracts while the show had a team of lawyers behind them; f) any terms of a contract should be construed against the party who drafted it, etc. etc. Assuming, further, that you somehow prevail on one or more of these defenses. You still had to spend a lot of money on lawyers and deposition costs. How do you eliminate the one in a billion chance? a) Refuse to sign such a broad agreement and demand that it be changed; b) if they refuse to change the language, don’t show there; c) cover the one in a billion chance with your own insurance; or d) take the chance and roll the dice. Surely, if everyone refused to sign such an all-inclusive, unlimited indemnity agreement, the show would change it. But they know most people don’t read it or don’t understand it. So why change it?

Where are you getting all these assumptions? Who else is sued IN ADDITION to you is besides the point. Again, I am not saying that this hypothetical outcome is likely. I am fully conceding that it is very unlikely or, 1 in a billion, as you say. But that is not the question. The question is, did you know you were agreeing to this 1 in a billion chance when you signed the indemnity clause that was all-inclusive and unlimited? Did you read it? Did you know what “indemnify” meant when you read and signed it? If the answer to all these is yes and you were still willing to roll the dice for the chance of showing, then fine. At least you did it knowingly. But I am perplexed at how many do not read these agreements, do not know what they are agreeing to, and do not at least protest to show management for a change to the language. As I’ve said, not all horse shows have such all-inclusive language. So if enough people complained, they would change it and the 1 in a billion chance becomes zero.

I’m not saying it’s only me. In fact, my hypothetical would likely involve the show mailing a demand letter to everyone who agreed to indemnify them. Yes, parents, in a survivorship action, DO get to presume occupation of their deceased 1st grader. How do you think juries arrive at $30 million medical malpractice verdicts in cases of wrongful death caused by medical negligence? They get an economist expert to testify that, both parents are Harvard educated brain surgeons so it is very likely that the child would also get into Harvard and become a surgeon who would have made millions of dollars over his/her lifetime. That is how our courts allow the valuation of a lost life whether you agree with the method or not. But even a clerk at Wal-Mart will make hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime and that would be the value of their lost life (not even counting losses claimed by the parents for the loss of their child’s love). Again, this may be a 1 in a billion outcome – I get that. But did you KNOW you were agreeing to this? Why not complain to the show and say you do not want to agree to even the 1 in a billion chance if you had nothing to do with it.

Whether or not something you did is negligent or not is for a jury to decide based on what they determine is the “standard of care”. Concluding what you did was “not negligent” would not only be self-serving, it would not be a valid defense.

Sorry, wordy today. I appreciate everyone’s input. I find it an interesting topic that I’ve not looked at before in real detail until just recently.

General additional comments:

Assuming, for some unknown reason (my DH is left scratching his head) no one is willing to complain to the show and demand more narrow language (like other shows have) and just throws caution to the wind because of the 1 in a billion chance and signs this all-encompassing, without-limitation indemnity agreement, then the question is, could you insure yourself against such an unlikely event? For sure, such a premium would be quite low because of the 1 in a billion chance the insurance company would ever have to cover such a claim. Alas, today we called one of the largest equine insurance agents in the country and their senior underwriter told us that no policy would cover an indemnity agreement. The only policy they offered was coverage for the policyholder’s negligence. That was about $450/yr for a $1,000,000/$2,000,000 liability policy (individual/aggregate). Not bad, but it would NOT cover an indemnity agreement.

I think if enough people complained and threatened not to show unless their indemnity agreement was changed and limited to claims brought by the participant, a participant’s agent, or a third-party, as a result of the participant’s conduct or their horse’s conduct, they would have to change it or the show would have no one. I am truly perplexed as to why more are not willing to complain except to the extent that it is because no one reads and/or understands what they are truly agreeing to. Yes, it is 1 in a billion. Yes, the show likely has insurance, etc. etc. But these are all after-the-fact justifications for why people do or should sign such an agreement. But again, would it not be infinitely easier (and far less risky) for everyone to complain to the show and demand a change? I am truly perplexed at why everyone seems so reluctant to demand such a change and just shrugs their shoulders at the overreaching of this particular show.

Finally, as for why they put such broad language in their show agreement – I suspect the show sponsor did not even read it nor understand what they were asking of participants. When I asked the show secretary for clarification, they didn’t respond. What I think is they told their lawyers to draft them up a release and the lawyers reached for the stars without even asking the show sponsor if this is truly what they wanted. Maybe some attorney copied and pasted this language from somewhere else. And there you have it.

Just for comparison, this is a local waiver/release that does not have the same type of indemnification clause, and I don’t have a problem with this one.


The undersigned Exhibitor, owner and any signing parent or guardian hereby (1) agree to release the management of this show, their officers, directors, employees,
members, or agents, and the owners or managers of the grounds where this event is held, from loss, damage, liability, or injury arising out of or resulting from this
show or Exhibitor participation or entry therein; (2) agrees to indemnify, hold harmless and defend; the organizer, facility owner, and the management of this show
from and against any and all claims for loss, damage, or injury, however caused, resulting directly or indirectly from Exhibitors entry or participation in this show or
from acts or omissions of Exhibitor or Exhibitors agents; and (3) acknowledges that activities with and around horses and horse shows involve inherent risks which
are understood by the persons signing and are expressly assumed, in the event of injury to the Exhibitor or to Exhibitor’s animal or animals, permission in hereby
granted to management for emergency medical treatment. WARNING: Under Tennessee law an equine professional is not liable for an injury to, or the death of a
participant in equine activities resulting from the inherent risks of equine activities, pursuant to Tennessee code annotated Title 44, Chapter 20, Section 1.

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I am with OP. I would not sign that release. My husband, a retired attorney, normally tells me releases are not worth the paper they are written on, but he would be apoplectic if I signed one with that wording.

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@ParadoxFarm, I am also having trouble following, but is this your position? Then, if so, I think that you and DH are overthinking the indemnity language. No court is going to construe the language to mean that random participants must indemnify the show. No court of appeals is going to affirm a lower court that tries to construe the language this way. I really don’t have a better answer for you than that (despite my own overpriced law degree).

Also, since you name the show in another thread, it’s worth pointing out that it’s a big one, with a national PR image. It’s not a little local shoestring operation. They’re not going to want the PR of taking a completely unreasonable position like this.

I admire you for reading the waivers and contacting the show staff about them, and you/DH might be right about the litigation risk. But the risk of what you’re describing is SO REMOTE, that I really think you should go to the horse show. This is not the kind of thing that would keep me at home.

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Also, should qualify that I am not giving anyone legal advice. Just saying that if I wanted to show there, I would personally read the waiver, shrug, sign it, and move on.

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So your DH thinks the defendant has standing to sue all participants at the show to pay for the damages caused at the show?

Wouldn’t that result in the Plaintiff having to pay for the damages caused to them? That’s a pretty absurd result, but it’s what you are saying will happen when this goes to court. I don’t think a judge will stand for that.

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I’ve been reading along here. I finally decided to go look up the definition of indemnify. It’s not a word that I use or read often, if ever.

Do I understand that your, OP, concern is that if in the event someone sues the show and wins, that the show, or it’s insurance agent (?), could demand that other participants, not associated with the law suit, pay to the amount awarded to the someone that sued the show? Based on the contract stating you indemnify the show?

I presume we are working with the second definition listed below? To me that reads like “co signing” a loan. Like, it’s your problem if they fup uck. If so, sounds like a terrible idea to sign on for that

I am not quite sure I am understanding you…negligent usually includes not making every effort to maintain control of your animal, as well as feed and care for it. I am not using my standards or opinion, I am using the general standards set by law. Whenever I had a dog, no matter what I did at home, I kept it leashed unless in a dog park where off leash is allowed. I did not even unleash dogs at the 5K acre state park, where dogs are OFTEN let off the leash and park rangers are none the wiser due to the sheer size of the place.

Likewise, when out in public, I make ever effort to maintain control of my horse. Yeah, I could get sued for falling off and my horse running over a child but I am not going to live my life on that fear.

Furthermore, if you are worried (as @TheDBYC and @SadieRidingHorses are positing) that you are going to get sued because someone else at the show did something negligent? Yeah, that’s like way overboard risk aversion, may as well not even leave the house, then, in my opinion.

Most people are likely not challenging the waiver/release because they are far less risk averse than you. I appreciate the viewpoint brought forward by lawyers but their opinion is just that.

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Is this a USEF show? Because they’re required to carry insurance. GR303. Lawsuit costs would be covered by that insurance; I could absolutely see insurance coming after involved parties for cost–say, the owner of the hypothetical runaway horse–but not random uninvolved people on the showgrounds.

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For what it’s worth, which is not much, I agree with Cabaret’s reading.

@JenEM not USEF but large event at Kentucky Horse Park.

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[/quote][quote=“ParadoxFarm, post:21, topic:756544”]
But how do you KNOW this? Don’t you think this is something you should know before agreeing to “indemnify” someone against “any and all claims” of “whatever cause whatsoever”? You are assuming many things. But in contracts, you cannot assume because a court will read the “four corners of the contract” and enforce it as written absent an ambiguity. What would that say about a horse show sponsor if you asked them if they were insured and they refused to answer? I’m not sure people would actually be willing to suffer serious injury by throwing themselves in front of a runaway horse just because they knew they could file an insurance claim. What kind of people do you hang out with?? :wink:
[/quote]

You’re a very positive (I imagine some would say naive) person, then, if you don’t think there are people out there who will purposefully put themselves in harms way or self-inflict injury for the benefit of insurance payout. There’s enough such people that disability income policies typically contain language specifically excluding self-inflicted injury. A friend who is a nurse used to work full time investigating workers comp claims. Her company did nothing but. Locally, it came out that a guy that had spit on protesters at Trump National golf course had been convicted in 2014 of defrauding workers comp to the tune of $900k. He was working under the radar as a construction foreman while out from his job as an air traffic controller with the FAA .

Regarding a possible survivorship case, my understanding that the parents could ask for compensation for loss of the financial support they could reasonably expect from the child. Not for compensation for the child’s entire potential career. Other factors come into play to determine awards, & some states use standard compensation calculation tables for this.

How do I KNOW without a doubt the show management company is insured? How do I know that any show is insured? I can’t. I can, however, make a reasonable assumption based on the show’s size & visibility & industry standards. When you get on a regularly scheduled commercial flight, the airline does not make known the limits of its coverage or even the fact it has coverage. We simply must trust that they have it at some.point.

I was curious enough I sucked it up &,asked my ex, a commercial contracts partner at a big city firm. His take? This section is so forking vague it benefits every one. Your husband is a plantiff’s rights attorney. The quote "To a hammer.everything looks like a nail ,comes to mind.

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I understand what everyone is saying when they point out how vague it is and the unlikelihood that the show would ever try to enforce it. BUT, that language shouldn’t be in the release. The only way it will be removed/replaced (and not spread to other shows) is if people object. Posting here is a good way to raise awareness of the need to read releases and object when they contain unreasonable wording. Thank you OP.

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The problem with this theory is that the vast majority of releases I have read are written in a language that only lawyers can actually tell what they are saying.

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Well, I fell down the rabbit hole researching this whole thing this snowy morning!I work for a broker that does equestrian industry policies, so I’m going to call it research & not procrastination :wink:

Per the KHP’s information for show managers, all shows held at KHP must carry general liability insurance with appropriate limits (typically $1 million per occurrence with additional coverage as required) through an insurer approved by the KHP, & naming the KHP as a coinsured, with all policy documentation & certificates submitted to KHP no later than 30 days prior to the start of the event. So it turns out we can know the show has liability insurance.

I’m curious if the KHP requires visitors to sign a general waiver upon entry, seeing as proximity & even direct contact with their horses is part of the experience offered to park visitors. I was not able to confirm if this is the case because online ticket sales have been suspended due to Covid. Which actually brings up another point that hadn’t occurred to me: Are spectators going to be allowed at all this year with Covid?

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Here we have specific signs with the state policy for equestrian venues by every door, in aisles and on the sides of the arena.

Those seem to work as good as signing those releases, that our attorneys seem to think are just for show won’t help in lawsuits, mostly because no one can sign their rights away wholesale, like those demand.

Most horse supply catalogs sell those, here one for ID:

https://www.horse.com/item/equine-liability-signs/SLT700541/

Here are some by the tack room/longe/restroom:

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Which is why I’m posting about it. :slightly_smiling_face: We as riders should know what we’re signing. Maybe this post will help one person to rethink signing a release before knowing what they are signing.

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I am confused. What do you want them to do? Hire a lawyer to interpret the release for them? None of my horse friends have a lawyer spouse to review their releases.

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I think having this discussion is a start.

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