It’s Safe Again to Take Your Date Horseback Riding in New York

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I guess you know your date didn't go very well when you get sued afterward.

New York's Appellate Division held on November 23 that a woman could not sue a man for injuries she sustained when she fell off a horse during a date. The plaintiff alleged her date "was negligent in failing to properly warn her and appreciate her limited level of skill as a rider, and in failing to pay proper attention to her request that the horses proceed at a slow pace in a careful manner."

       – "So, are you having fun?"

— "Yes! But please understand that I have a limited level of skill as a rider, and ensure for that reason that the horses proceed at a slow pace in a careful manner."

Things apparently went downhill from there.

The problem with a lawsuit like this is going to be the "assumption of risk" doctrine, which in the context of sporting activities precludes an action based on risks that are considered "inherent in the sport." Just the week before, the state's highest court had heard argument in a case where plaintiff alleged defendant hit him with a golf ball without yelling "Fore!" The lower courts dismissed that case based on this doctrine, and it looks like that's what the Appellate Division did here.

"[P]laintiff was aware," the court held, "that the risks of falling from a horse or [of] a horse acting in an unintended manner are inherent in the sport," and so defendant had no duty to insure that her "horseback riding experience was safe." It continued, "Defendant's conduct was not so unique or reckless as to create an additional unanticipated risk for plaintiff," although unfortunately the court did not elaborate as to what goofy date-related conduct he might have engaged in, if any, that she had argued was "unique or reckless."

This is a potential exception to the doctrine, you see, which is something to keep in mind if you are planning some sort of freakish conduct during an upcoming horseback-riding date.