Lawsuits can arise in the equine industry for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, disputes arise when a person or horse is injured due to someone else's negligence. Disputes can also arise when agreements aren't properly written and there's a misunderstanding between the parties involved. To avoid a lawsuit, it’s important that you understand equine law and take the necessary steps to minimize your liability. Here are a few common mistakes made within the horse industry and how you can avoid them.
Problem #1: You Bought a Horse without a Written Sales Agreement
Historically, horses were sold with a verbal contract. Nowadays, you need a written sales agreement; in fact, it's required by law in most states, including California. A sales contract legally transfers the ownership of the horse from the seller to the buyer and protects both parties after the deal is sealed. However, some horse sales still go undocumented or are documented improperly. You should always consult an equine lawyer when creating a bill of sale to ensure it's correctly written and compliant with state laws. While you may use it as a guide, you shouldn't use a contract form you find on the internet. These contracts are not specifically tailored for your individual situation.
Problem #2: You Skipped the Pre-Purchase Exam
Even if you’re purchasing a horse from a trusted friend or relative, you shouldn't rely on their word for the horse's health and condition. Never skip the pre-purchase exam. It provides you with the information you need to make an informed decision. The exam should be performed by an independent veterinarian who does not know the seller or the horse.
Problem #3: Your Liability Release Was Poorly Written
Whether you're a horse trainer or stable owner, require your clients to sign a liability release. Your liability releases must be properly worded and signed by anyone who comes on your property or handles the horse. For minors, their parent or legal guardian must sign the release form; a minor's signature is not legally binding. Like with any contract, have your lawyer review your liability releases to ensure there are properly written.
Problem #4: You Don’t Require Your Clients to Have Insurance
While trainers and stable owners should have liability insurance, you should require your clients to have insurance too. Your clients should have mortality and medical insurance, which will help protect you if their horse were to get injured or die on your property. Your clients should also have individual horse owner's liability insurance. This protects you if their horse causes an injury or damages your property.
Problem #5: You Published Inaccurate Information in Your Sales Ad
When you publish a sales ad for your horse, make sure the information you provide is accurate. It's considered fraud to make bold statements like "ready to show" or "no behavioral problems" if they are false. Make sure you can confidently stand behind the information provided in your ads.
These are five situations that often lead to equine disputes. To learn more about equine law and how you can limit the risk of a dispute, consult our horse lawyers at Catanese & Wells: 818.707.0407.