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Equine Contracts and Genetic Conditions: Horse Owners Beware

Because some horse breeds are known to be predisposed to certain genetic conditions, mare owners typically scrutinize the risks before making breeding decisions. They evaluate stallions’ histories, offspring, conformation, health and pedigrees. As a 2016 Texas case showed, mare owners should also pay attention to the language in the breeding contracts they sign.

The Texas Case

In a Texas Federal Court case, the plaintiffs owned an American Quarter Horse mare, bred for cutting, which had never before been tested for a genetic condition called HERDA (Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia). In an effort to reduce the risk of a foal affected by HERDA, the mare owners allegedly sought a stallion that was not a carrier of the HERDA gene.

As the lawsuit states, one of the mare owners asked the stallion owner whether the stallion was a HERDA carrier and was told – not in writing – that the stallion had tested “N/N” (double negative). Although the stallion owner’s website said nothing about the stallion’s HERDA status, the plaintiff argued that advertisements showed the stallion not being a carrier of the HERDA gene. Later, the parties entered into a Stallion Service Contract for the breeding. Their contract, however, was silent on the stallion’s HERDA genetic status.

The resulting foal turned out to be affected with HERDA, which was discovered after the horse was saddled during its training process. After that, the mare owners filed suit raising numerous legal theories that included breach of contract, fraud, negligence, violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practice Act, and more. The stallion owner sought to dismiss the breach of contract claim on the basis that the Stallion Service Contract made no statements or representations regarding the stallion’s HERDA status. A clause within the contract even stated that the written contract “contains the entire agreement between the parties and may be amended only in writing signed by each of the parties.” Because no evidence existed as to written amendments to the breeding contract regarding the stallion’s HERDA status, the court dismissed the mare owners’ breach of contract claims. Essentially, the ruling indicated, there was no contract to breed a HERDA negative stallion. The mare owners’ other claims were allowed to proceed, however.

Conclusion

Equine genetic conditions can have tremendous financial consequences on horse owners. If the genetic condition of a horse is important to you, whether you are planning to breed or buy a horse, make sure that the contract confirms details that are important to you. Request – and carefully review – copies of the horse’s genetic test results. Have your contract confirm in writing that the horse does not have the genetic conditions of concern to you (and consider listing the particular conditions).

A link to the Texas court ruling is here.

Categories: Breeding, Contracts, Lawsuit

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed this week by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

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On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit www.ayhc.com/.

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RECENT EQUINE LAW COURTROOM VICTORY

We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.

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Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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