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.
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.
Julie 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 www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
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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
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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.
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, 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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