Raising cattle is both a business and a way of life that is fraught with danger and unpredictability. There are many aspects of a rancher’s job that we have little control over, from the weather to cattle prices. We've all become accustomed to this lack of control to the point that we rarely consider the most unpredictable of all—the livestock themselves.
Working with livestock, especially large animals like cattle, is inherently a risky business. That’s why the Texas Legislature passed the Farm Animal Liability Act back in 2011. Simply put, the Act was designed to protect livestock producers and others from liability for property damage, injury or death that results from the fundamental risks associated with farm animal activities.
Unfortunately, the legal language was a ambiguous and was challenged in court soon after it became law. In fact in 2013, a ranch hand was trampled to death by a bull. Although, the ranch hand had worked on the ranch for eight years and was fully aware of the hazards of the position, his family sued the rancher for wrongful death. The rancher, on his part, claimed that the Farm Animal Liability Act exempted him from liability.
The case was heard before the Texas Supreme Court after navigating its way through the courts. The Texas Supreme Court ruled in June 2020 that the Farm Animal Activity Act does not extend to ranchers and ranch employees in a 6-2 court decision.
As a result of the ruling, if you did not have worker’s compensation insurance and one of your farm or ranch hands happened to be injured by livestock, you could have been held liable. This was a tremendous legal risk for cattle producers that I knew must immediately be addressed. As a rancher, attorney, and member of the Texas House of Representatives, I filed House Bill 365 to amend the Farm Animal Liability Act to definitively provide adequate legal protection for the farmer and ranchers that need it. House Bill 365 was passed by the Texas Legislature, has been signed by Governor and, starting September 1, 2021, will become Texas law and will proactively clarify that the liability limitations afforded in Farm Animal Liability statutes apply to farmers, ranchers and their workers.
House Bill 365 Signage Requirements