We regularly advise buyers and sellers on the sale and purchase of horses.
When advising a buyer, the starting point will often be to identify who the seller is. We often come across circumstances involving sales agents and limited companies. We will need to examine the facts and the documentation on a case by case basis to determine who the purchaser entered into the contract with.
It will also be necessary to work out whether the horse was sold privately or in the course of the seller’s business. Again, this question will be answered once we have considered the evidence in each case. The seller does not have to be an outright dealer of horses for a sale to constitute a sale in the course of business.
In those cases where the sale is deemed to be in the course of a business, the buyer would be protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The Consumer Rights Act automatically adds terms into consumer contracts that the goods (including horses) will be of satisfactory quality and fit for their intended purposes at the time of sale.
When considering if a horse is of satisfactory quality, the following factors will be taken into consideration:
- The description of the horse;
- The price paid for the horse; and
- All other relevant circumstances.
The description will include the advert, if there is one, together with any other written and/or verbal descriptions given by the seller or their agent.
The Consumer Rights Act also says that goods should be fit for their particular purpose. For example, if before the contract is made, you make the seller aware that you need a horse for show jumping at a particular level then this will be relevant to determining the purposes that you purchased it for.
In the majority of cases involving the purchase of horses, it is necessary to obtain expert evidence to help the court decide whether the horse had physical or behavioural issues when it was sold.
When advising a purchaser who wants to recover a sum of money, another significant consideration to take into account is whether the seller is worth suing. Even in a strong case, it may not be worth issuing the claim if the seller doesn’t have any assets.
Case Study – Hayley Marshall v Laura Newman
A recent case that we acted on demonstrates the complexity of horse sale and purchase disputes. We acted for Miss Marshall who purchased a horse, Bellissimo, for £15,000 to compete in affiliated show jumping competitions.
Miss Marshall thought that she was purchasing the horse from Miss Newman. The horse was found to be lame following purchase. Veterinary evidence obtained for Miss Marshall confirmed that the lameness was likely to have existed before the sale. There were other allegations involving the horse including his identity and age. We successfully recovered the purchase price from Miss Newman together with the costs incurred by Miss Marshall for the keep of the horse. The Judge accepted the evidence of Miss Marshall’s veterinary expert.
Miss Newman alleged that the horse belonged to a third party and that she was an agent in the sale. The Judge found this to be correct albeit because the third party had not been made known to Miss Marshall before the sale Miss Newman was still liable to her for damages.
Miss Newman was also ordered to pay Miss Marshall’s substantial legal costs.
This case highlights the difficulties that can arise when enforcing a judgment against a judgment debtor. Miss Newman claimed that she did not have means to pay the judgment sum which amounted to approximately £22,000 together with Miss Marshall’s legal costs for dealing with the matter up to and including the trial which exceeded £100,000. It was necessary to take enforcement action to recover the money.
We were aware that Miss Newman had an interest in land. As soon as the judgment was obtained we applied for a charging order against her interest in that land. Miss Newman claimed that the land was held in trust for a family member. We applied for an order that the land be sold and the proceeds of sale be utilised to pay damages and costs to Miss Marshall.
This dispute resulted in a further trial taking place. It involved the court deciding whether the Deed of Trust that Miss Newman was relying on, existed and/or was valid. Ultimately, we were successful in getting the order for sale. This part of the legal process added a further £70,000 to the amount that Miss Newman had to pay.
This case highlights the issues that can arise in horse purchase disputes. The horse was purchased in 2008 and the dispute was only concluded in 2018. Miss Marshall’s determination and perseverance in this case ultimately paid off for her but the risk of litigation is a significant factor in deciding whether to pursue such cases.
“Caroline Bowler and her team acted on my behalf after the purchase of a showjumping horse that was not fit for purpose. The case became more complex after the seller declined to pay what was owed. Thankfully, Caroline has an impeccable eye for detail and leaves no stone unturned, strategically overcoming any hurdle that arose. Throughout, the whole litigation process I received top quality advice and professionalism. If you want to maximise your chance of legal success I highly recommend contacting Actons.” Hayley Marshall
Posted on March 12, 2020