At the 2017 International Hoof-Care Summit, I attended the lecture, “How to Avoid Putting Yourself at Risk,” by Texas attorney Jamie Cooper. Jamie's spouse Matt is a farrier. Cooper’s main lecture point was how to reduce the likelihood of being involved in a lawsuit. She quoted Olympic farrier James Gilchrist of Lake Worth, Fla., as he has stated to his clients, “I’m just a mechanic.” That statement prompted me to recall how many business cards I have read that have stated, “specializing in therapeutics (or breed or discipline).”
Being a self-declared expert widens that target around you by making you accountable to a higher standard. Farriers also tend to widen their target of legal vulnerability when they do not stay “in their box.” Simply put, this means understanding what your duties and responsibilities are, as well as your limits. For example, not showing up to perform the shoeing task can make you as likely to be sued as someone who performs the work in a negligent manner. Catching and leading horses are also outside our “box,” from the standpoint that we are now liable for anything that happens to that horse or property should anything go amiss.
One of my wow moments came when Jamie pointed out that the horse, vehicle and tools are considered to be an “attractive nuisance” to children. They cannot be held liable for any accident that they might have caused and that you could be held liable for any injury to them! It certainly will make me re-evaluate the distance children are to my work environment regardless of how “broke” my horses may appear to be. Cooper also pointed out that one of the easiest ways to avoid a lawsuit after something has gone wrong is to simply apologize. The best time to say “I’m sorry” should be immediately after the incident, not after the owner has thrown you off of the property.