Since New York passed the Safety in Agricultural Tourism Act (herein the “Act”) in 2017, many horse farm owners have posted signage in attempt to insulate themselves from liability. But is the signage sufficient? If not, the consequences could be dire.
Under the Section 18-303(1)(a) of the New York General Obligations Law, the following requirements must be met in order to be eligible for liability protection under the Act.
- Post a conspicuous Warning to Visitors sign notifying visitors of the inherent risks relevant to the on-farm activity, the farm operation and site conditions. The barn/farm operator is responsible for developing this sign and taking reasonable care to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks to visitors.
- Distribute written information to visitors, with language specified by the Department of Agriculture and Markets, directing the attention of all visitors to the required Warning to Visitors sign.
- Post directional signage and identifying “off limits” areas.
- Post a conspicuous notice at every point of sale or distribution of tickets that visitors have certain responsibilities identified in the General Obligations Law.
- Post a conspicuous notice to visitors of the right to a refund for those unprepared or unwilling to accept the inherent risks of the on-farm activity or to the duties of reasonable care imposed on the visitor.
- Provide adequate training to employees.
Query whether the signs should include translations into languages other than English depending on who is frequenting the farm.
The State has made it clear that a “one size fits all” approach does not ensure liability protection under the Act. Generic signage may not identify unique risks posed by the activities conducted on one particular farm. Signs used in other states with similar laws may not satisfy the unique requirements of the Act.
In order to obtain the maximum protection afforded by the Act, New York horse farm operators should work with their insurance agents and an experienced attorney to perform a “risk assessment” in order to identify the particular risks to visitors on that particular farm. Again, there is no “one size fits all” panacea.
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