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Torts No. 03-02-00400-CV, 7/24/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: James Tex Steeg appeals from the take-nothing summary judgment rendered against him on his claims that he was injured by the negligent acts and omissions of Baskin Family Camps Inc., doing business as Balcones Springs Executive Retreat & Conference Center. He sues for damages he claims resulted from his fall from a horse during a trail ride at appellee’s facility. The district court granted appellee’s motion for summary judgment based on its immunity from damages for personal injuries suffered by a participant in an equine activity under the Liability for Equine Activity Act. On appeal, Steeg contends that appellee’s actions either did not fall within the scope of the limitation of liability or fell within an exception to the limitation. He also contends that the act violates the open courts guarantee of the state constitution. HOLDING: Reversed and remanded. A genuine issue of material fact exists regarding whether Steeg’s injuries resulted from an inherent risk of equine activity. Because the record does not conclusively demonstrate that the acts and omissions Steeg alleges are inherent risks of equine activity, the court erred by rendering summary judgment that appellee is immune from liability for his injuries. In the act, the Legislature specified certain situations in which persons involved in equine activities are not liable for damages resulting from dangers or conditions that are an inherent risk of that activity. There is no dispute on appeal that the appellee is an equine activity sponsor and that Steeg was involved in an equine activity. The appellee argues that interpreting the act to permit sponsor liability for negligence improperly grafts onto the act a preliminary showing of non-negligence for equine activity sponsors to gain the protections of the act. But considering whether Steeg’s injuries resulted from the sponsor’s negligence is not a pretest. Rather, it is part of the inquiry into whether the injury resulted from an inherent risk of equine activities. The facts of each case will reveal whether the cause of the damage is one for which the sponsor is immune from liability. The appellee further argues that the absence of negligence among the causes of injury excepted from the immunity in Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code �87.004 means that sponsor negligence must be included in the list of causes of damage for which sponsors are immune from liability. But sponsor negligence is not expressly listed as an inherent risk of equine activity nor is it mentioned as an exception to immunity. The court concludes that the absence of negligence from the list of exceptions means only that sponsor negligence is not excepted from immunity. Whether immunity applies depends upon the interpretation of the phrase “results from the dangers or conditions that are an inherent risk of an equine activity.” The appellee propounds a restrictive interpretation of the phrase, arguing essentially that, because a horse may run and stop unexpectedly and a rider may fall, such falls are inherent risks for which sponsors are immune from liability. However, the act confers immunity from liability for injury resulting, not from specific occurrences such as falls, but from more general dangers or conditions like unpredictable behavior of animals or other participants. Because the act does not confer immunity for injuries resulting from a fall or other occurrence caused by something other than an inherent risk, courts must consider the full array of underlying causes for the horse running and the person falling that are evident in the record. Courts must examine whether the injury results from innate equine behavior, the actions of participants, or some other cause, such as sponsor negligence. Given the wide array of possible causes of injuries, determining whether injuries result from an inherent risk of equine behavior or from some other cause requires a fact-intensive inquiry into the circumstances leading to the injury. Because appellee has not shown as a matter of law that it is immune from liability, the court need not review Steeg’s challenges to the court’s rejection of the immunity exceptions and to the constitutionality of the act. OPINION: Kidd, J.; Kidd, Smith and Yeakel, JJ.

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