Waugh and his staff are soliciting co-sponsors, who have until July 9 to sign on. When that process is complete, the bill will be referred to a committee, probably the Judiciary Committee. "We had hoped to have it introduced in the Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee, but recent experience indicates that probably will not happen," said Kristin Ebersole, Ag Committee Director and a member of Senator Waugh's staff. "After it is introduced we will start discussions with the Chairman of the committee the bill is referred to, in an attempt to advance the bill out of the committee."
In his letter to senators, Sen. Waugh wrote, "In the near future I will be introducing legislation that will provide some protection from civil liability for equine owners and trainers in Pennsylvania. I have worked with the Pennsylvania Equine Council to draft this legislation and a similar version exists in the House of Representatives.
"Equine activities involve inherent risks that are impossible to eliminate. It is only reasonable that those who choose to participate in these activities should voluntarily assume part of that risk. My proposal protects owners from lawsuits where no party is at fault for the injury or damages. While the measure provides immunity from litigation in some cases, the right to sue is preserved if an owner is grossly negligent, displays willful or reckless disregard for the safety of the participant or intentionally causes injury.
"Pennsylvania is one of just six states in the nation that doesn't limit liability on equine activities. This substantially raises the rates to purchase liability insurance, since owners must deal with the constant threat of a lawsuit. This cost places an enormous burden on horse and stable owners, even forcing some owners out of business. Our equine industry, which generates $600 million annually, is an important contributor to our state's economy, and we must take action to reduce this heavy burden placed on the industry."
Corresponding bill HB 896 has been amended and referred to the House Judiciary Committee for reconsideration.
"Not only does this antiquated law hurt existing owners, but the cost is also prohibitive for those who are interested in opening a new equine business in this state," Senator Waugh said. "Many legislators have expressed a desire to see this legislation become law, and HB 896 has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. I am encouraged by the support this idea has earned, and I am hopeful we can extend this important protection to our equine industry in the very near future."
You Can Help!!
Contact your Senator and ask him or her to support limits on equine liability and Senator Waugh's bill. To find your Senator, visit http://www.legis.state.pa.us/index.cfm Use the "Find Members" box in the upper right hand corner of the page.