Most of us don’t worry about legal issues until we need a lawyer. Texas attorney (and farrier spouse) Jamie Cooper says farriers should remember several legal issues in their daily practices. One of those is malpractice.

“Malpractice is something that most people associate with doctors, lawyers and other professionals,” says Cooper. “But, the earliest malpractice legal case arose in 1441, referred to as “Marshall’s Case” in England, it involved a farrier who so negligently treated and carelessly applied medicines that a horse died. Other early American cases involving farrier malpractice can be found in Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Clients expect their farriers to be educated, trained and skilled. It is possible for a farrier to fail to perform those services in a way that other members of the profession would. When that happens and it causes harm, the farrier has committed malpractice.

“No one ¾ doctor, lawyer, accountant or farrier ¾ sets out to cause harm in his or her work,” says Cooper. “But, the nature of any professional practice allows malpractice to raise its ugly head.

“The potential for malpractice arises when a client presents a problem that requires a degree of training, skill or experience that you have yet to acquire and you do not respond appropriately. Responding appropriately may mean consulting with someone else, doing some research or refusing to do the work. It can also mean taking on the case and doing it well through either luck or design.”

Cooper also warns that malpractice can also appear when a professional chooses to do something that he or she are not trained, prepared or experienced to do. For example, a farrier may choose to collect a horse from its pasture area prior to shoeing it. In the process, the horse is harmed because the farrier was unfamiliar with the pasture and how the horse should be collected. The farrier was liable for malpractice because he or she volunteered to do something outside the scope of shoeing the horse.

“I pulled this simple example from the 1800’s in Ohio, but it still makes sense today,” she says. “Farriers, because of their exposure to the client, are often the first people horse owners ask about training issues, feed and supplements, vitamins, tack and a myriad of other issues that can come up with a horse. Develop a good network of other equine professionals to respond to these issues.”

Just like the farrier in 1441, you can be brought before a proper court in your jurisdiction and asked to pay for any harm that you have caused. While the laws will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, all will still follow the same general rule established almost 600 years ago.