Massachusetts Woman’s Signature on Release Bars Her Claim Against Allegedly Negligent Horse Farm Following Fall – Markovitz v. Cassenti

Releases and waivers of liability are so commonplace these days that many people sign them without even stopping to consider the consequences. Perhaps they even doubt that such agreements will hold up in court if an accident does happen.

The truth is that a release or waiver is an important legal document that has the potential to forfeit considerable legal rights, particularly the right to recover compensation for injuries (or even a wrongful death) suffered due to the negligence of the individual, business, or government to which the waiver is granted.

Occasionally, the courts will find a reason to rule a particular release or waiver invalid, but, very often, these documents are upheld as legally binding upon the person who signed them. Thus, it is always a good idea to carefully consider whether the activity for which a waiver is required is important enough to forego your right to sue, should you be seriously injured because of another party’s negligence or carelessness.

The Facts of the Case

In the recent (unreported) case of Markovitz v. Cassenti, the plaintiff was a woman who was allegedly injured when she fell off a horse during a riding lesson at the defendant’s farm. (The woman’s husband joined in the action, asserting a loss of consortium claim.) The defendant moved for summary judgment, pointing to a release that the woman had signed in 2009 when she applied for the riding lessons.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant, and the plaintiffs appealed.

The Massachusetts Appeals Court’s Decision

The court affirmed, holding that the release signed by the plaintiff was dispositive of her claim, and thus it was not necessary to decide whether or not the defendant had made reasonable efforts to determine the plaintiff’s ability to safely manage the horse whose actions led to the plaintiff’s injuries. In so holding, the court noted that, generally, the courts in Massachusetts uphold release agreements immunizing defendants from future liability for negligence. This includes future negligent acts arising from recreational activities and sports.

The plaintiff did not challenge the release in question as unclear or ambiguous, but she did argue that Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 128, § 2D(c)(1)(ii) provided an exception to the defendant’s exemption from liability under the release. However, the court disagreed with the plaintiff’s contention that the statute created a new duty for equine professionals. Thus, the plaintiff’s reliance upon the statute was found to be misplaced.

If You Have Questions About a Cape Cod Premises Liability Case

If you or a loved one has been injured on someone else’s property, and you would like to discuss the possibility of filing suit with an experienced Cape Cod premises liability attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, today at (888) 262-6664. We will be glad to schedule a free consultation at our Hyannis or Plymouth offices. If you prefer, we can arrange for a visit to your home or hospital room to discuss your case. Nos falamos Português!

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