University of Vermont AAHS

Smith v. Hunting View Farm


New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division
265 A.D.2d 928, 695 N.Y.S.2d 802
October 1, 1999


Summary of Opinion

Plaintiff, Smith, was injured when kicked in the head by a horse while grooming it. The trial court refused to grant a motion for summary judgment by the Farm claiming assumption of risk. The Appellate Division reversed the trial court saying that because the plaintiff was an experienced equestrienne, who had participated in numerous horse shows, was an advanced student, and gave riding lessons to other students, she knew and assumed the risks of her activity at the time of the injury.

Text of Opinion

Plaintiffs commenced this action seeking damages for personal injuries sustained by their daughter while she was helping to groom a horse at defendant Hunting View Farm, operated by defendant Deborah Ferrentino. Defendants moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, contending that plaintiffs' daughter assumed the risk of injury inherent in horse training.

Supreme Court erred in denying the motion. Assumption of risk is a defense that applies to those injuries sustained as a result of known or reasonably foreseeable consequences of participation in a certain activity (see, Morgan v. State of New York, 90 N.Y.2d 471, 484, 662 N.Y.S.2d 421, 685 N.E.2d 202; Turcotte v. Fell, 68 N.Y.2d 432, 439, 510 N.Y.S.2d 49, 502 N.E.2d 964). Awareness of the risk is assessed against the skill and experience of the particular plaintiff (Benitez v. New York City Bd. of Educ., 73 N.Y.2d 650, 657, 543 N.Y.S.2d 29, 541 N.E.2d 29). The plaintiff need not have foreseen the exact manner in which the injury occurred "so long as he or she is aware of the potential for injury of the mechanism from which the injury results" (Maddox v. City of New York, 66 N.Y.2d 270, 278, 496 N.Y.S.2d 726, 487 N.E.2d 553; see, Swan v. Town of Grand Is., 234 A.D.2d 934, 935, 652 N.Y.S.2d 166).

Plaintiffs' daughter had been working with horses for years, was in an advanced class at defendant farm and had competed in numerous horse shows. In return for her services at defendant farm, which included teaching riding classes, she had unlimited use of a horse there. It is undisputed that, in her years of working with horses, she had been warned that horses might try to kick or bite. The injury giving rise to this action occurred when she was kicked in the head while assisting in a grooming technique that she had never before performed. Defendants established that plaintiffs' daughter was experienced and aware of the danger that horses may kick and thus met their burden of showing that she assumed the risk of injury inherent in the activity (see, Lewis v. Erie County Agric. Socy., 256 A.D.2d 1114; Rubenstein v. Woodstock Riding Club, 208 A.D.2d 1160, 1161, 617 N.Y.S.2d 603), and plaintiffs failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Contrary to the contention of plaintiffs, they failed to raise an issue of fact whether economic or quasi-economic compulsion that may be inherent in employment made their daughter's assistance involuntary (see, Verduce v. Board of Higher Educ., 8 N.Y.2d 928, 204 N.Y.S.2d 168, 168 N.E.2d 838, revg. on dissenting opn. at 9 A.D.2d 214, 218, 192 N.Y.S.2d 913; see also, Hammond v. Spruce Meadow Farm, 199 A.D.2d 1014, 605 N.Y.S.2d 586).

Order unanimously reversed on the law without costs, motion granted and complaint dismissed.

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