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Lawsuits for Defective Equine Products

Disputes involving defective horse feed have, in some instances, turned into lawsuits.  Several years ago, I worked on a case where a horse died from blister beetle poisoning, and the horse owners sued a product manufacturer, the hay grower, and the hay seller.

“Blister beetle poisoning” is a type of poisoning that can result when a horse ingests a number of beetles called “blister beetles.”  In the tissue of these types of beetles is a toxic substance called “cantharidin.”  Blister beetles sometimes swarm in or near alfalfa fields in certain regions of the United States, typically the Southwest, and at certain times of the year.  When those alfalfa fields are cut and baled for hay, blister beetles sometimes get caught in the hay and are not always immediately visible.  Later, horses eating the hay might ingest blister beetles.  Some will die or become seriously injured.

Liability for Defective Feed

Lawsuits arises from horses becoming poisoned or ill from defective feed or hay can involve several legal theories, depending on the facts and applicable law.  They can include negligence, breach of warranty, breach of contract, products liability, fraud, and/or a consumer protection law/deceptive trade practices act.

Burden of Proof

In a case involving defective hay, such as the blister beetle case I handled, the one who brings a claim or suit bears the burden of proof and must come forth with sufficient evidence to prove:

  • The horse died from blister beetle poisoning.  Has a veterinarian concluded, to a reasonable degree of veterinary certainty, that blister beetle poisoning caused the horse’s death?  Was a post-mortem examination performed?  If so, did the exam find cantharadin in the horse’s system and/or lesions in the horse’s mouth or stomach consistent with blister beetle poisoning?  If no post-mortem exam was done, will a qualified veterinarian attest that the horse died from blister beetle poisoning?
  • The hay at issue caused the poisoning.  Proving the source of the fatal cantharidin can be difficult since stables sometimes some keep inventories of feed and hay that originate from different sources.
  • Damages.  The aggrieved horse owner must prove damages (“damages” are what the law allows as compensation for losses).  The applicable state’s law will tell what plaintiffs can potentially recover from the responsible parties.

Defenses

Defective product cases can be very complex and costly to pursue and to defend.  Defendants (the ones who are sued) can  assert many possible defenses, and all will depend on the facts and the applicable law.  Examples of defenses include, but are not limited to: the seller or distributor was unaware of the defect, the state Commercial Code does not apply to the one being sued, the one being sued had no control over the condition of the hay, the one being sued was not negligent because he or she fulfilled all obligations reasonably required (such as a proper inspection), the statements allegedly made by the seller do not legally qualify as “warranties,” under the law.

If you have questions about blister bettle poisoning or about other defective products, please let me know.

Additional information on blister bettles:
  • Poisonous Blister Beetles - Horsechannel.com (We have identified that the following link is no longer active and it has been removed)
  • Equine Health Tips - Equine Health Studies Program, School of Veterinary Medicine, Louisiana State University (We have identified that the following link is no longer active and it has been removed)
  • University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
  • New Mexico State University College of Agriculture, Consumer & Environmental Sciences (We have identified that the following link is no longer active and it has been removed)

Categories: Liability

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four 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 is considered by many to be the nation's leading expert on equine activity liability acts. Her 30-minute presentation for a recent educational webinar on equine activity liability acts for the American Horse Council is available for viewing. Please take a look, here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCROISSPMJs

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Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

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In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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 

Some of our Equine Law Services

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 a wide variety of equine-related 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. 

THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER

Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) 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 directly.

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