Kovnat v. Xanterra Parks and Resorts, No. 13-8095 (10th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff Corrine Kovnat was injured while horseback riding in Yellowstone National Park. Kovnat filed a diversity action alleging negligence, as well as negligent training and supervision, on the part of defendant Xanterra Parks & Resorts (Xanterra), the provider of the horseback riding services. Approximately fifteen minutes into the ride, Kovnat looked down at her saddle and "the thing in the middle, the horn, . . . started to move." Kovnat "yelled out to the wrangler," but the saddle rolled "all the way over" to the left and ended up underneath the horse. Kovnat struck her back on the ground. An emergency medical assistance team employed by the National Park Service was summoned, initiated care, and placed Kovnat on a backboard. Kovnat was then carried to an awaiting ambulance and transported to a hospital in Montana, where she was diagnosed with a fracture to her L1, L2, and L3 transverse process. The district court, in granting Xanterra's motion for summary judgment, concluded that "[t]he inherent risk issue/question, in the light most favorable to [plaintiff], is whether a saddle slipping out of position because of uneven stirrups and/or an improperly secured cinch are inherent risks of horseback riding." Kovnat argued on appeal to the Tenth Circuit that the district court erred in concluding, as a matter of law, that both of these were inherent risks of horseback riding. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the district court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Xanterra with respect to the issue of the loose cinch, but that genuine issues of material fact remained regarding the uneven stirrups. The evidence indicated that, during the course of the trail ride, Kovnat and her saddle rotated to the left side of her horse, the direction of the longer stirrup. Viewing the evidence in the district court record in the light most favorable to Kovnat, the Tenth Circuit concluded a jury could have reasonably drawn two alternate inferences from it. The case was affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for further proceedings.