Outbreak! Legal Ramifications for EVA at the Stable

As Dr. Knopf discussed in our previous postEVA (Equine Arteritis Virus) can cause mares to abort their foals.  Foals can be highly valuable from the moment of conception, not only from the costs that go into their breeding, such as the purchase of semen or the costs of live cover and veterinary bills for the mare, but foals are also highly valuable for their sale or competition value (their potential) based on their bloodlines.

This isn't a veterinary blog, so why are we discussing EVA?
 In order to understand the legalities of a potential suit, or to avoid legal liability, it is important to understand the underlying facts of a case; for example, with EVA we need to understand how the disease is transferred and what reasonable steps can be taken to prevent its outbreak.
Failure to take reasonable, prudent steps as a barn, stallion, or mare owner can give rise to legal liability.

Horses are personal property, and the negligent or wanton destruction of another's personal property can give rise to a cause of action.

As discussed in a previous post, a tort is a cause of action for injury or harm.  A common method of establishing a tort is to show that a person or entity was negligent, failed in a duty of care, and was the cause of the injury that occurred.
In the case of EVA, boarding barns typically owe a duty to the horses in their care to act reasonably like other similar boarding barns in the area.  Failure to fulfill this duty can result in damages, such as the fair market value of the foal, and other consequential losses suffered as a result of the breach of the duty.

Liability Prevention
If a boarding barn permits stallions to board at the facility, the barn should make efforts to determine that the stallion is healthy and free of transmissible diseases.

Incoming mares to the barn who have been bred recently should also be determined to be healthy and free of infectious diseases.

The owner of a stallion used for breeding should regularly test him for disease.
A mare's owner should carefully evaluate the health of a stallion prior to breeding her mare.

If EVA is suspected in any mare or stallion on the property a barn owner or the horse owner should take immediate precautions to isolate the horse and have it examined by a veterinarian.

Did your boarding agreement require any health exam or Coggins prior to bringing your horse to the property?
Do you think that equine facilities are generally pretty good at preventing disease outbreak on the property?