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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

Photo of Julie I. Fershtman

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 and, and

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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 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.

Honors & Recognitions

Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.

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

On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit


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.

Other Articles

"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013

Win Equine law Books!

We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit and or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]

Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry

We applaud the American Horse Council ( for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.


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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