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By: Tia J. Combs
Kentucky’s Farm Animals Activity Act (“FAAA”), KRS 247.401, et seq. acts to limit the liability of those engaged in farm animal activities by, inter alia, bars most claims by participants in farm animal activities against farm animal activity sponsors and professionals. Despite the prevalence of these sorts of activities in the Commonwealth, the Act’s immunity provision, KRS 247.402, is rarely the subject of appellate decisions. Although the FAAA was passed into law over a decade ago, this section has only been cited in nine appellate cases, and prior to 2021, only one of those was a published decision. In August if 2021, for only the second time, the Supreme Court of Kentucky addressed KRS 247.402 in Keeneland Ass’n v. Prather, 627 S.W.3d 878 (Ky. 2021).
During the 2016 September Yearling Sale a Keeneland, a horse broke free from its handler and ran toward pedestrians crossing a path between barns. One of the pedestrians, Roy J. Prather, fell when he attempted to flee the loose horse. Prather and his wife filed suit, asserting theories against Keeneland and Sallee Horse Vans, Inc., the transportation company transporting it to the track.
Keeneland and Sallee defended by arguing that the Prathers’ claims were barred by KRS 247.402, a section of the FAAA. The trial court agreed, granting the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the Court of Appeals of Kentucky held that since “horse racing activities” are specifically exempted from the FAAA, the summary judgment had been erroneously granted. The Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed, holding that the Prathers’ claims were barred by KRS 247.402.
Prather argued that he was not a “participant” in a farm animal activity as he was not at Keeneland on that day to buy, sell, or lead horses. Instead, he was at the Keeneland sales only to distribute a satirical newsletter about sales. He argued that he was more like a spectator, whose claims are not barred by the FAAA unless the spectator voluntarily places himself for herself in immediate proximity to a farm animal activity. The Supreme Court of Kentucky disagreed that Prather was not a “participant” in the day’s events. The supreme court noted that Prater was present on the backside of the track the day of is injury to disseminate information related to the sale, making him more involved in the activities that day than a pure spectator. He was also not in the areas of Keeneland designated for spectators.
The supreme court also dismissed concerns that the sale Prather was attending qualified as “horse racing activities,” noting that while Keeneland does, at certain times of the year, conduct horse races, this was not the activity occurring when Prather was allegedly injured. The court went on to explain that by voluntarily attending the Yearling Sale at Keeneland and working on the backside of the track, Prather had subjected himself to the inherent risks associated with being around horses. The court explained that his alleged fall after being in the path of a loose horse is exactly the sort of injury that is foreseeable when around farm animals and the exact sort of claim KRS 247.402 bars.
The court reinstated the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of Keeneland and Sallee.