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Horse sale gone bad, ends up in small claims court. UPDATE on post #24

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  • Horse sale gone bad, ends up in small claims court. UPDATE on post #24

    I will start off by saying this is not happening to me, but to a friend of mine, and I'm posting for her in an effort to help her.


    Friend sells horse in the Spring of '09 via payment plan to a 20-something gal who was going to board horse about 40 minutes away from where it originally was boarded. Buyer said she had a trainer, but trainer never came to see horse, and buyer also passed on having a PPE. Seller disclosed to buyer that the horse had been slightly lame in Fall '08. X-rays examined by 3 vets determined there was nothing there that would indicate a cause of lameness. His lameness did go away when a bad case of thrush was treated. Seller gave the x-rays to buyer who opted to not show them to her vet.

    Seller offered buyer the option to return the horse if seller changed her mind for any reason in 7 days after the sale. Seller also offered to continue trimming the horse's feet and did so once a month after the sale and the horse was sound at that time. She also sent along 3 pages of notes regarding the horse's care. Fast forward a few months, and seller has moved horse to a different trainer and after paying off the 3K purchase price in October '09, indicates she can no longer afford to keep the horse. Buyer refused requests to let seller see or visit the horse. Apparently the horse was being ridden six days a week in arenas or trails.

    November of '09, buyer contacts seller accusing her of selling a horse with a pre-existing condition that can only be ridden at the walk. She wants to give the horse back for the full purchase price as well as an extra 2K for vet expenses. They went to small claims court yesterday and the judge was unable to make a ruling at the time.

    It would seem pretty clear that if someone purchases a horse and does not do a PPE, then they are out of luck if something happens. I did not see a copy of the contract, but I'm guessing it was a standard contract that can be found anywhere.

    Maybe I'm missing something, but how can a buyer go back to a seller six months after a sale and claim the seller sold them a flawed horse?
    Last edited by jenm; Jan. 12, 2010, 03:09 PM. Reason: Added update to title
    Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!

  • #2
    Anybody can sue for anything. It doesn't have to make sense, it doesn't have to be right. But it can and will cause everyone involved stress!!

    You never know what kind of obsessive compulsive crazy person you are until another person imitates your behaviour at a three-day. --Gry2Yng


    • #3
      Anyone can take most anything to small claims court, as long as it is under a certain dollar amount.

      SCC Judges rarely make a ruling the same day as the case is presented. They'd rather have a think about it, and sometimes even if the answer is clear cut they won't rule right then -- to avoid having a fight break out in their court.

      From what you've said, the buyer has no case. She took the risk of buying without a PPE. The risk turned out to be against her, and now she wants someone else to take the blame. See it all the time.

      Hopefully the judge has a clue about animals, and seller was able to make her case clearly, and buyer did not lie.

      Again -- this is all based on what you wrote, I'm sure buyer would describe things differently.
      ...somewhere between the talent and the potato....


      • Original Poster

        Originally posted by Anselcat View Post
        SCC Judges rarely make a ruling the same day as the case is presented. They'd rather have a think about it, and sometimes even if the answer is clear cut they won't rule right then -- to avoid having a fight break out in their court.
        Thanks, I'll let my friend know that, it may help her calm down a bit!

        Originally posted by Anselcat View Post
        Again -- this is all based on what you wrote, I'm sure buyer would describe things differently.
        Good point. At least my friend has an email trail as well that was probably helpful. I remember her telling me that the buyer had fallen in love with her horse and didn't feel the need to have it looked over by a professional. I hope she has that in writing!
        Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


        • #5
          For educational purposes, will you let us know how the judge rules and his explanation for why he found as he did?
          The armchair saddler
          Politically Pro-Cat


          • #6
            Just a heads up from my own experience. Being "right" doesn't necessarily get you justice in SCC!! I had a very similar situation many years ago. My buyer LOVED the horse - for 6 months, until a visiting - not even LOOKING at or treating the horse - vet, jokingly said "he was only good enough to stuff a can of dog food!!" My lawyer heard my side before the hearing date and wouldn't even go to court with me because he said "they had no case!! Save your money, you don't need me!!" Guess what?? The judge ordered me to refund the money and take the horse back!! I had my vet waiting (I had to go get the horse, too) when we got home and he did a full vetting. Nothing wrong with the horse!! NADDA!! I resold the horse a few months later! Hope your friend has better luck!
            Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


            • #7
              Good luck to your friend!


              • #8
                Hopefully the Bill of Sale includes a clause about no guarantee of future soundness, or, along the same lines, an "as is" line. That should help her case, provided she kept a second copy, signed by both parties.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Anselcat View Post
                  SCC Judges rarely make a ruling the same day as the case is presented. They'd rather have a think about it, and sometimes even if the answer is clear cut they won't rule right then -- to avoid having a fight break out in their court.
                  Actually, they postpone the decision to avoid getting attacked by either the plaintiff or defendant. In a lot of SCCs, the judge has no protection whatsoever.

                  Agree, though, buyer doesn't have a leg to stand on, unless the seller knew about a defect and didn't disclose it. Sort of hard to prove in court, though.


                  • Original Poster

                    Thanks everyone for your words of support and wisdom. I will update when I hear the ruling.

                    My friend had a short consultation with an equine lawyer who said that based on straight contract rules, she should win.

                    The sad part about it all is that when this horse was first put up for sale, there was a gal leasing him who could afford his care, but not the 3K purchase price. She loved him and took great care of him and when he was sold, her biggest concern was that something would happen and he would fall into harms way.

                    According to the court testimony, the buyer changed his name on the papers and transferred ownership to her partner for "convenience" although there was no record of this offered in court.

                    I just hope she finds out where her horse is and that he will be okay and doesn't fall through the cracks never to be seen again.

                    The take away from this is any time you sell a horse make sure you are very clear in the paperwork so that if something comes back to haunt you, your butt is covered!
                    Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!


                    • #11
                      While small claims court is much more informal (and therefore more friendly) than superior court, the same principles apply:

                      Which side has the most documented evidence (emails, contracts, etc., which is why everything should be IN WRITING);

                      Which side has the most BELIEVABLE witnesses (and demeanor is very important, I always told my witnesses not to tick off the judge/jurors);

                      Which side has the most witnesses (numbers count!);

                      Which side has the most supporters siting behind "them" (It's like a wedding, you want to fill your side with supporters).

                      There are other factors, but without full documentation in writing, it is important to present one's case with honesty and in a logical manner. I.e., don't get upset and angry and lose control when provoked. It would be wonderful if both judges and jurors could always ascertain the truth from hearing evidence, but visual imput and pre-existing prejudices are brought to court by both judges and jurors.

                      In small claims court there are no jurors so the judge "deliberates" and makes the decision. He/she can do so from the bench or do so weeks later.

                      I don't know if Carol Lush's thread is still on coth, but if it is (her coth name was "Green Eyed Lady" -may not have spaces there- but she went to small claims court in PA and won shortly before her death from cancer. Carol was logicial and had all her thoughts in order, altho she had nothing in writing. She never collected her money that she won, but she got the ponies back that had not been sold already by the offender. Ironically, the same protagonist has another woman's horses now, and is accusing the victim in the present case of "stealing" her own horses back.


                      • #12
                        I agree that the sales contract is going to be key. I would add that no sales contract should be standard; it needs to be modified to reflect the particular circumstances of the sale.

                        I recently sold a horse to an out-of-state buyer who waived the PPE. He has arthritis in his left hock. I have x-rays from his prior PPE when this issue was discovered (and that buyer passed on him.) X-rays were given to the current buyer early in the sales process. I should add that I dropped his price to the cellar because of he will need injections. My contract says "As Is" and notes the buyer passed on a PPE.

                        A couple of years ago, I was a witness in a small claims action whereby the buyer sued the seller over the price of the horse. The age of the horse was seriously mistated in the contract. Horse was supposed to be 10 and was more like 21+. Buyer did not have a PPE. Even though the horse was sold "as is", the judge felt the contract definitely misrepresented the horse's age to the extent that he award a partial refund. Buyer kept horse, but got $500 returned. She collected, too.
                        Last edited by IronwoodFarm; Jan. 6, 2010, 09:23 AM. Reason: Another thought
                        Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


                        • #13
                          In SCC, as in any other court, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof. They must establish that they have a valid claim against the seller. Some judges see SCC as a "plaintiff's forum" and that's unfortunate. Others see it as a place to force settlements (cuts the number of trials and permits more time for golf). That, too, is unfortunate. Folks who live in places like this should remember judges like this come election time. And ensure that their friends know about it, too.

                          IMO way too much is made of PPEs (by both sides). A standard PPE, properly done, tells you one thing: the condition of the horse as of the date and time of the exam. From those findings both past and future can be deduced/predicted, but that's about it. The more complete the PPE the more about the past and future that can be presumed. In this sense a PPE protects both buyer and seller equally.

                          I've a friend in CA who uses a three page contract/bill of sale when she sells a horse. Mine is three paragraphs. When she bought a horse from me she was shocked at its brevity. I'm a fan of "few words contracting." Use enough to do the job, but don't get too "creative" or you'll give yourself future problems.

                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                          • #14
                            Did they give your friend an idea of when they would have a decision?


                            • #15
                              Wow! I'm learning about things I could never even dream up.


                              • #16
                                From my legal experiences, I hope the judge is smart enough to understand PPE's and general horse selling practices. A lot of judges are too lazy to educate themselves on topics they do not understand. Crosscreeksh is an example.

                                Good luck and report back with the outcome.
                                "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach


                                • #17
                                  I hope your friend's case works out.

                                  The outcome of any court case turns on 1) the judge's understanding of the law and 2) the judge's understanding of the subject matter (and how the law should be applied. The job of each side (and the reason for hiring a lawyer) is to provide the facts of the case and persuade the judge that, under applicable law, that side should win. Unfortunately, the presentations in small claims court (where neither side is represented by a lawyer) are often not as complete, lucid, or persuasive as would be ideal. For that reason, too frequently there are incorrect outcomes. (That also can happen, by the way, when lawyering ability is outmatched...).

                                  It is essential when buying or selling a horse to have a written contract (typically a horse purchase agreement will be unenforceable if not in writing under the Statute of Frauds). There is no thing as a standard contract for buying a horse--contracts need to be devloped on a case by case basis. In general, the contract lays out the responsibilities of each party to the sale and describes the horse being sold. And, while I am not a fan of extra words and legalese, a "short" contract may or may not cover all the bases, and not covering bases is what causes problems. For example, a contract might not properly address warranty issues (there are warranties that arise automatically in a sale, and the contract has to extinguish them). Simplification is good; over-simplification is dangerous.
                                  Trakehner Treffpunkt & Tannenwald Trakehner
                                  Breeders & Friends of American Trakehners - European Engineering, Made in America!
                                  AND ... Breeding-Stallions.com


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by cajunbelle View Post
                                    Wow! I'm learning about things I could never even dream up.
                                    Same here! It is stories like these that enforce my desire to keep my horses for their entire lives.
                                    There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


                                    • #19
                                      You can hire a lawyer for small claims court (Carol Lush did) and if you do, hire a local lawyer in that court's jurisdiction.
                                      SCC is just designed so you don't have to hire a lawyer to pursue a claim.

                                      Just don't expect the verdict (from veritas dictum, to speak the truth) to be the correct one unless you are prepared and articulate.

                                      Best to get everything in writing so you don't have to worry about the verdict.


                                      • #20
                                        Well, if that is true in some states, it is a surprise to me. It isn't the case in Michigan (where I am a member of the bar). The way it works, in Michigan at least (and all the other jurisdictions the rules of which I am aware), is, if you want a lawyer to actually appear in court, your case gets moved out of the Small Claims division and into state District Court. That does not mean you can't hire a lawyer for advice; they just cannot appear (literally, as in go to court for you, or "appear" by filing paperwork on your behalf) if you want to stay in SC.
                                        Trakehner Treffpunkt & Tannenwald Trakehner
                                        Breeders & Friends of American Trakehners - European Engineering, Made in America!
                                        AND ... Breeding-Stallions.com