Eriksson v. Nunnink: Lessons for Equine Professionals Riding instructor Kristi Nunnink says, "I would encourage everyone to make sure they get their releases signed." 

Court Rules for Horse Trainer in Wrongful Death Suit

A California judge has ruled a riding instructor was not negligent in the death of a student in 2006. Following lengthy litigation and an appeal, Judge Craig Reimer granted a Motion of Judgment relieving horse trainer Kristi Nunnink of liability on Monday.

Mia Eriksson was killed during the cross-country phase at Galway Downs in November 2006. After she incurred four refusals, Mia was eliminated. Rules dictate horse and rider exit the course, however Mia continued to the next fence where she suffered from a fatal rotational fall.

Mia’s parents initially sued the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), United States Eventing Association (USEA), Del Mar Eventing, Galway Downs property owner, course designer, and competition management. In 2009 the court ruled against the Erikssons leading to a successful appeal, and ultimately Monday’s ruling.

The Erikssons pursued three major issues: the viability of the liability waiver, the soundness of Mia’s horse, and the direction and influence of Mia’s instructor. The court found the liability waiver was in good standing, and without fault. The claim that trainer Nunnink was in some way negligent as it applied to the soundness of the horse, or Mia’s readiness to compete was not established.

For the Erikssons this ruling is yet another chapter in their life story of horse related tragedies. In 2003 their oldest daughter, Shana Eriksson, who was also an accomplished equestrian, was killed when her horse was spooked during a leisurely ride.

“Win or lose this is a very sad story and these parents have lost both of their daughters in riding accidents,” says Nunnink.

We were unable to reach the Erikssons for a comment, however they have sixty days to appeal this latest ruling.