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STABLE OWNER TO HANDLE VETERINARY EMERGENCIES IN THE OWNER’S ABSENCE?

Fershtman photo with jacketHOW CAN A CONTRACT AUTHORIZE THE TRAINER OR BOARDING STABLE OWNER TO HANDLE VETERINARY EMERGENCIES IN THE OWNER’S ABSENCE?
In January 2013, Julie Fershtman was the speaker at a national teleconference on Equine Law and also spoke at continuing legal education programs on Equine Law for the Washington State Bar Association and New York State Bar Association. Attendees raised several questions, and some of them are shared on this blog.
QUESTION:  Some boarding contracts in the equine industry ask owners to give their consent for veterinary services. What is your opinion of these kinds of clauses?
JULIE’S ANSWER TO THE QUESTION:  I often see provisions in boarding and training contracts that give the trainer or boarding stable specific authorization to handle veterinary emergencies. Some of the clauses, in my opinion, could pose problems. For example:
I am aware of boarding contracts where the owner is asked to set forth a specific dollar limit of what he or she will authorize the stable to spend on veterinary care of the owner is unavailable and cannot be reached (such as in situations where the owner is vacationing). These clauses concern me. What if the veterinarian estimates that the cost of a procedure, such as colic surgery, will exceed the limit by a few hundred dollars? Should the stable take the risk and exceed the limit? This puts the stable and veterinarian in a difficult position and I avoid these clauses in contracts that I draft.
Other boarding contract clauses I’ve seen give the boarding stable full discretion to handle emergencies if the owner (or designated person) cannot be reached and specify that the stable acts as the owner’s agent to procure veterinary attention if the owner cannot be reached. These clauses seem reasonable, overall, as stable management can take into account the horse’s condition, the horse owner’s ability to pay, and the estimated cost for veterinary attention.
A safe option might be to require the horse owner to notify at least two local veterinarians of the dollar limit and provide a credit card on file in case one of the veterinarians is summoned in the owner’s absence to handle a veterinary emergency involving the boarded horse.
As to routine veterinary attention, horse owners generally want to handle these matters as they see fit, and some horse owners prefer to use their own selected veterinarian as opposed to the veterinarian used by stable management. Still, there can be no question that the boarding stable is interested in making sure that horses at its facility are vaccinated and de-wormed on a regular basis in an effort to minimize stable-wide illnesses.
Julie I. Fershtman, Shareholder, Farmington Hills, T: 248.785.4731
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation’s leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 200 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 28 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance.
For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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