Recently in Equine Law Category

April 2, 2013

What Is The Standard Of Care For A Veterinary Pre-Purchase Examination?

What is the standard of care for a veterinary pre-purchase examination? This question was asked recently in the March 2013 California case, Quigley v. McClellan. In Quigley the buyers hired the veterinarian who had been treating the horse for the past two years to conduct a pre-purchase examination. The buyer sued the veterinarian and his medical group for veterinary malpractice alleging that the veterinarian failed to disclose that he himself had treated the horse for lameness and had personal knowledge that the horse had been laid up for a six month period. The surprising outcome of this case hinged not on what the witnesses said but on the questions not asked by the Buyer's attorney during the course of the trial. Thus, the question remains, Although this case does not discuss what the standard of care for the veterinarian should be, it does demonstrate why it is important to hire an experienced litigation lawyer who is familiar with equine law issues in these types of cases.

dreamstime_xs_23124352.jpgThe buyer's expert testified at trial that, "the three critical parts of the prepurchase to me are identifying the problems . . . documenting them, and then explaining the relevance . . . to the potential buyer." The expert then went on to testify as to how the horse's problems were not, in his opinion, documented properly.
The jury found in favor of the buyer and returned a verdict of negligence against the veterinarian. The veterinarian appealed the verdict and the appellate court reversed it because the expert testified only as to his own opinion and did not establish for the jury the applicable "standard of care" in the community. While this case underscores the importance of hiring an experienced litigation attorney who knows how to ask the correct questions, it does not answer the question of what should go into a proper pre-purchase examination.

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September 2, 2012

Emotional Distress Damages Are Awarded for Injury to Family Pet: Dog, Cat and Horse Owners Are Vindicated!

Last Friday, in Plotnik v. Meihaus, the Court of Appeal recognized that under California law, pet owners may recover for "mental suffering" which is caused if another person intentionally injures or kills their animal. This is a case that we have been watching because of its impact on California horse law and the horse industry.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for dreamstime_xs_14913179.jpgAmong the cases cited by the court in upholding over $160,000 in damages and over $93,000 in attorney fees was the 2009 case of Jamgotchian v. Slender (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1384 in which a horse owner sued the track steward for trespass when the horse was injured in a race after the steward rejected the owner's request that the horse be scratched from the race. The court looked at the growing trend across the country allowing pet owners to recover for mental suffering caused by another's wrongful acts that result in injury or death of a beloved animal including the nightmarish Kentucky case, Burgess v. Taylor (2001) 44 S.W.3d 806 in which a lessor under a "feed lease" sold the leased horses for slaughter and then lied about it to the owner.

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July 12, 2012

How to Avoid Being Sued For Improper Debt Collection Practices

Debt collection in California is tricky. It is never worthwhile to try to harass or embarrass a debtor into paying a debt. There are a myriad of laws protecting debtors and even though your debt is legitimate it is best to consult with a business lawyer to make sure your debt collection practices will not expose you to liability so that you wind up owing your debtors money. The laws that apply to debt collection in the business world apply equally to debt collection in the horse industry. While each case may vary, it is best to avoid these types of debt collection practices:

771882_money_trap1.jpgDiscussing a Debt with Third Parties. Generally speaking, it is best to discuss a debt only with the debtor or the debtor's lawyer. Under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act; and the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act communications with anyone but a debtor or a debtor's attorney is prohibited. The publication or posting of "deadbeat lists" not only can violate the California and Federal laws listed above but they can also give rise to an action called known as "Public Disclosure of Private Facts." (See California Civil Jury Instruction 1801). Similarly, comparing notes with other vendors, "black-listing" a client, or other public humiliation tactics expose you to the risk of suit if they result in damage to the debtor. Even mentioning the debt can be risky. Further, if the information you convey is not completely accurate you also face the possibility of being sued for defamation. You may not communicate with the debtor's employer or trainer or any horse show or horse association regarding the debt unless you are specifically authorized to do so by law or by a written waiver from the debtor. While you are not obligated to continue providing services, you do not owe anyone an explanation and a statement such as "they owed me money" can be enough to get you sued if you then caused the debtor damage. The best answer is "it is a private business matter" and leave it at that.

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