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Common Characteristics of Equine Sale Disputes—And Ways to Avoid Them

Woman Taking Pictures of Horse at AuctionEquine sales are on the upswing these days, and many believe we’re now in a seller’s market, with high prices and eager buyers. As a busy lawyer with over 35 years of experience, my phone rings frequently with calls from horse buyers or sellers who are considering a lawsuit or who have been threatened with one. 

Based on these inquiries, here are five common characteristics of equine sale disputes:

  1. Buyers purchase horses sight unseen. Thanks to a robust online marketplace, sellers have numerous opportunities to reach buyers – social media, online auctions, horse purchase/sale websites, and others. The problem is, buyers sometimes fall in love with photos and videos, without inquiring about important details. For all you know, the beautifully trained and well-mannered horse on the video might actually have been worked for hours or even drugged to appear that way. Also, there may be a reason the buyer has situated other horses near the horse on the sale video – the horse might have major separation anxiety.
  2. Buyers don’t demand evidence of past veterinary attention. Buyers, especially those on a limited budget, have every incentive to demand the horse’s veterinary history. The horse within your budget that appears perfectly sound today may have received a series of expensive and extensive joint injections a couple of weeks ago – which need to be repeated regularly. Buyers can ask for the horse’s veterinary history, receive records directly from the seller’s veterinarian, and/or confirm the history directly in the contract.
  3. Buyers waive pre-purchase veterinary evaluations and seek no drug screens, only to discover serious health issues later. Your investment in a pre-purchase veterinary examination from an independent veterinarian (not one hand-picked by the seller) could help avoid a legal dispute. A drug screen can be important, as well. If you can’t attend the veterinary exam in person, look into having somebody video it as it occurs, allowing you to watch in real time or later. Also, consider hiring your local veterinarian to review the radiographs and even the pre-purchase exam video for a second opinion.
  4. Buyers assume the horse has transferable registration papers. When sellers promise to transfer registration papers, buyers would be wise to confirm that in writing and demand to see a copy of the papers to make sure they exist.
  5. No written contract. Unfortunately, legal fees in verbal contract disputes can be particularly expensive because each party to the sale transaction usually has a totally different understanding of what it involved. The cost of a lawyer to draft or review a sale contract could be a small fraction of the cost to take a sale dispute to court.

Avoiding Disputes

Many equine sale disputes are avoidable, and contracts can help. 

For Buyers:

A well-worded sale contract can help avoid costly disputes. Form contracts you find online might, at best, provide a starting point. Your investment in legal expense to protect your interests in a contract might save substantially more money down the line. Make sure your written contract includes all items that were important to you in the purchase decision, such as promises the seller gave you about the horse’s health and history; the seller’s refusal to sign your sale contract could reflect the seller’s unwillingness to back those verbal statements in writing.

For Sellers:

A well-written contract can protect you, as well. Before you sign, make sure you’re comfortable with all clauses, including those specifying where legal disputes must be brought and whose state law applies. Your lawyer can help you draft disclaimers of warranties conforming to the applicable state law. Installment sale agreements can be very risky, particularly if you know nothing about the buyers and their creditworthiness. 

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.

Categories: Contracts, Fraud & Abuse, Sales/Disputes

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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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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

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

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

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

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

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.

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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