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Making hay from horse law
The National Law Journal
Elaine Fresch describes her equine law practice as "pro-horse." Most often, she's on the defense side if it's a personal-injury case involving the animals. She also handles horse-related contracts and transactions.
Fresch, a show-jumping competitor and partner in the Los Angeles office of Selman Breitman, spends about 25 percent of her time on matters involving horses. The rest of the time, she manages the construction-defects practice at the 113-attorney law firm. The National Law Journal spoke with Fresch about how she established a practice founded on her love of horses and equine sports.
NLJ: Did you plan on practicing equine law when you went to law school?
Fresch: I've always ridden, and it was always in the back of my mind, but when you first get out of law school and you get your first case, things change. You don't end up doing what you thought you would.
NLJ: So how did you get into it?
Fresch: I got involved in equine law around 1994 or so. An associate was hired by my firm, and he mentioned his former firm had a couple of cases involving horses. That led me to do some research into the field and networking to have a case assigned to me, and then it went from there. And it was in this period that I started competing [in show jumping], so everything came together.
NLJ: What are the most common kinds of cases that you handle on the defense side?
Fresch: It's someone who's fallen off a horse. I just won a summary judgment and attorney's fees and costs in a case where the plaintiff claimed the cinch [on the saddle] was loose. In a typical case, plaintiffs claim they've fallen off, and they blame the horsethey claim the horse wasn't suitable to ride. I mean, there are cases in which people are seriously injured or killed.
NLJ: What are some other cases you've handled?
Fresch: One involved a claim that the wrong embryo was implanted in the surrogatean alleged mix up of embryos. And then the mare from which the embryo was taken died. The same breeding of that mare and stallion could no longer be produced, so it was a dispute on liability and damages as to value of the foal. One of the foals died, too.
NLJ: Regarding the personal-injury cases, aren't people assuming the risk when they get on a horse?
Fresch: That's part of it. Horses are animals of flight.
NLJ: What does that mean?
Fresch: They develop intuitions in order to protect themselves. If something is fearful to them, their inclination is to run away from it. That can be a key defense in a case.