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Holcomb v. Long

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 10, 2014

HOLCOMB
v.
LONG

Equine Activities Act. Gordon Superior Court. Before Judge Scott Smith.

Coppedge & Associates, Warren N. Coppedge, Jr., Daniel H. Laird III, for appellant.

Jenkins & Bowen, Frank E. Jenkins III, Robert L. Walker, for appellee.

DILLARD, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 688

Dillard, Judge.

Michael Holcomb filed a civil action against Charles Long d/b/a Charles Long Farms (" Long" ), alleging that Long's negligence in saddling one of the horses that he owned and a faulty saddle resulted in Holcomb falling from the horse and suffering serious injuries. Long moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Holcomb now appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in ruling that Long was entitled to civil immunity under Georgia's Injuries From Equine Or Llama Activities Act[1] (" Equine Activities Act" ) because none of the exceptions to immunity outlined in the statute applied. For the reasons set forth infra, we affirm.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant,[2] the record shows that Holcomb and Long were acquaintances through their membership in a local civic organization, and Holcomb had previously mentioned that he and his granddaughter were interested in riding the horses at Long's farm. Long extended an invitation to Holcomb and his granddaughter and, consequently, on April 7, 2011, they went to Long's farm to ride horses. Upon their arrival, Long inquired as to their riding experience, and Holcomb stated that he had ridden horses often as a young man (while his granddaughter [329 Ga.App. 516] had very little riding experience). Subsequently, Long first saddled a horse named " Elvis" for Holcomb's granddaughter and then saddled a very docile horse named " Tumbleweed" for Holcomb to ride. Next, he directed Holcomb and his granddaughter to first ride within the fenced corral so that he could assess their respective levels of competency.

After about ten or fifteen minutes, Long saw that Holcomb and his granddaughter could handle the horses rather well and, therefore, told them that they could ride out to the pasture and nearby trails, which they did. Holcomb and his granddaughter then rode for approximately one hour, during which time Holcomb did not notice anything wrong with Tumbleweed's saddle. But as they headed toward the trails, Holcomb turned backward to his left in the saddle to see if his granddaughter was immediately behind him. And as he did so, the horse flexed its body to its left, and the saddle began to slide to the right. The horse then began to gallop, but with the saddle continuing its slide to the right, Holcomb fell, struck his head on a fence post, and suffered serious injuries.

Thereafter, Holcomb filed suit against Long to recover damages for the injuries he suffered, alleging, inter alia, that the accident was the result of Long's failure to re-tighten the front girth, or cinch,[3] of the saddle,

Page 689

as well as his failure to utilize a cinch hobble[4] to secure the saddle. Long answered, and discovery ensued.

In deposition testimony, Holcomb's expert opined that the accident was a result of Long's failure to adequately tighten Tumbleweed's saddle. Specifically, Holcomb's expert testified that the front girth of the saddle should have been re-tightened after five or ten minutes of riding because it tends to loosen for various reasons as the saddle settles on the horse. However, he did not believe it was likely that the lack of a cinch hobble contributed to the accident. In his own deposition, Long agreed that a saddle will loosen as a horse walks or sweats and conceded that he did not re-check Tumbleweed's saddle at any point after Holcomb began riding.

Once discovery concluded, Long filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the Equine Activities Act cloaked him with civil immunity and, therefore, barred Holcomb's lawsuit.[5] Holcomb [329 Ga.App. 517] responded, arguing that two of the statute's exceptions to its general grant of immunity applied, and thus, summary judgment was not warranted. Nevertheless, after holding a ...


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