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Papers, Papers - Who has the Papers? Part I – Legal Rights in Registration Paper Disputes

Two months ago you bought the mare you always wanted.  Your goal was to win championships in breed-recognized horse shows and then retire the mare for breeding.  A terrible problem has derailed your plans:  The seller will not transfer the horse's registration papers into your name.  Your arsenal of weapons is limited -- there is no written sales contract, but you recall the seller promising to send you the horse's papers "right away" the day you gave him your money (a promise he now denies ever making).

What are the buyer's options in these types of situations?  Here are a few of them:

  • Sue the seller to fulfill (or to "specifically perform") his promise of transferring the horse's papers into your name.  This option, although it seems easy, can be very complex.  Courts may be unwilling to grant this remedy, known as "specific performance," unless you can convincingly prove: (1) the horse is unique, and only with its registration papers in your name will it have value; and (2) there is no other legal remedy, aside from getting the registration papers in your name, that will adequately compensate you in this situation. The sad fact is, if the seller lacks registration papers and cannot convey them to you, you are left to pursue other legal options.
  • Sue the seller to nullify ("rescind") the sale, take back the horse, and compensate you.  In a case of this type, you would assert that the seller sold the horse to you through a fraudulent deception - he represented the horse had transferable registration papers, when, in reality, he had none.  A lawsuit of this type tries to restore everyone's position as though there had never been a sale.  That is, you would demand, at a minimum, that the seller take back the horse, refund your full purchase price, and reimburse you for all expenses you incurred in keeping the horse.  In most states, small claims courts cannot handle these disputes.
  • Sue the seller to recover the difference between the horse's value with papers (which you thought you bought) and the horse's value without the papers (which you actually bought).  This option makes sense if you want to keep the horse, and you would seek to recover the overpayment.
  • Other options.  Other options against the seller might include a lawsuit alleging a violation of an applicable state's consumer protection/deceptive trade practice law, violation of provisions in a state Uniform Commercial Code, and more.  Because of complexities in the law and variations among states, your lawyer can help you explore your options.

Part II of this series explores how to avoid these disputes.  Keep in mind that a knowledgeable lawyer can help you avoid or respond to a sales dispute.

Categories: Sales/Disputes

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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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Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!

Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed 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.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 


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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