United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
ABIGAIL E. BROWN, Plaintiff,
COUNTRY VIEW EQUESTRIAN CENTER, INC., Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
BARBARA B. CRABB DISTRICT JUDGE
Abigail Brown has brought a state law negligence claim
against defendant Country View Equestrian Center, Inc.,
alleging that she was injured during a private horseback
riding lesson on her own horse when defendant's employee
allowed another “high-spirited” horse to enter
the arena in which plaintiff was having her lesson. The court
has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Now before the
court are three motions filed by defendant:
motion to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted
on the ground that Wisconsin's equine immunity statute,
Wis.Stat. § 895.481, bars plaintiff's claim. Dkt.
#8. Plaintiff opposes the motion, citing an exception to the
immunity statute involving the provision of an equine that
defendant did not manage safely.
motion to disqualify plaintiff's counsel, David Brown,
because he is plaintiff's father, was present at the time
of the incident and is likely to be a witness in this case.
motion for sanctions and request for reasonable attorney fees
and costs under Fed.R.Civ.P. 11(c) on the ground that
plaintiff asserted frivolous legal claims that are not
supported by existing law in violation of Rule 11(b)(2). Dkt.
reasons discussed below, I conclude that the exception does
not apply and defendant cannot be held liable for negligence.
Therefore, I am granting defendant's motion to dismiss
the complaint. Because I find that plaintiff's reliance
on the exception to the equine immunity was not groundless, I
am denying defendant's motion for sanctions and fees.
Finally, because I am dismissing this case, it is unnecessary
to address defendant's motion to disqualify counsel and I
will deny that motion as moot.
sole purpose of deciding this motion, I accept as true the
following facts alleged in plaintiff's complaint.
Abigail Brown is a citizen of Missouri. Defendant Country
View Equestrian Center, Inc. is a Wisconsin corporation that
owns and operates a horse boarding and riding stable in
Monroe, Wisconsin. On March 4, 2016, plaintiff took a private
riding lesson from defendant's professional instructor,
Crimson Pulver, at defendant's indoor riding facility.
During the lesson, plaintiff rode her own horse, a registered
Thoroughbred gelding known as Golden Gift.
beginning the lesson, plaintiff informed Pulver that her
horse had very little formal training and that she was new to
English-style jumping. Pulver told plaintiff to ride on a
loose rein with no contact on the horse's mouth and to
enter a trot. After plaintiff's lesson commenced, Pulver
directed another horse and rider to enter the arena with
plaintiff so that Pulver could determine the jumping ability
of the other horse for the purpose of valuing it for resale.
Pulver had been told that the horse was too high-spirited for
its current owner and required a very experienced rider,
beyond the abilities of the current owner.
plaintiff was riding Golden Gift on a loose rein as
instructed, Pulver asked the rider of the other horse to jump
a fence in the arena. As the other rider turned the horse
toward the fence, the horse stopped suddenly, dropped its
head and sped away, bucking and leaping out of control until
it collided with Golden Gift. Plaintiff was thrown into the
air and fell to the ground, injuring her left leg and ankle.
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the
complaint's legal sufficiency. In resolving such a
motion, the court takes all well-pled facts in the complaint
as true and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. Reger Development, LLC v. National City
Bank, 592 F.3d 759, 763 (7th Cir. 2010). A complaint
survives a motion to dismiss if it “contain[s]
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.'” Id.
“The plausibility standard is not akin to a
‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
contends that plaintiff's negligence claim is not
plausible because Wisconsin's equine immunity statute,
Wis.Stat. § 895.481, shields defendant and its employees
for their acts and omissions related to equine activities.
The statute extends broad ...