Q: WE bought a second-hand lorry in a private sale last summer and recently realised that it’s not able to carry enough weight to take our horses and us to shows. Do we have any legal comeback against the seller?

ACCORDING to Stuart Farr of Laytons Solicitors, the basic position regarding private sales, particularly of second-hand goods, is that it’s the purchaser’s responsibility to check the item fully meets their requirements, unless the buyer and seller reach an agreement to the contrary.

“The expression ‘buyer beware’ is relevant here, so the scope for legal redress if something goes wrong can, therefore, be fairly limited,” says Stuart. “The ability to make a claim against the seller will depend on your contract with that person, any representations that may have been made and/or discussions held prior to purchase.”

“There are key questions to consider before deciding if you have a claim against the seller. Did you make it clear to the seller what you intended to use the vehicle for? Did the seller confirm that the lorry would satisfy your intended use and, if so, in what respect? And how was the vehicle described to you in an advertisement or when you were viewing it?

“If the lorry was expressly described as being capable of carrying the weight you stated, you might be able to argue that it does not comply with the description, contrary to section 13 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979. This might entitle you to reject the lorry and demand a refund,” says Stuart.

“But, you bought the lorry nearly six months ago, so you will need to give good reasons why you’ve only recently realised it is overweight for you to use. If you cannot, the seller may be able to claim that you have not acted promptly and you will be deemed to have accepted the goods.

“Your legal right to return the lorry may have been lost, and you will be restricted to claiming damages from the seller for the loss you have suffered, subject to your legal obligation to take reasonable steps to reduce your losses as far as possible.

“Anyone thinking of buying a vehicle to transport horses must check the maximum weight/capacity it can carry before they buy.”

Information

For equine legal advice contact Stuart Farr at Laytons Solicitors
Tel: 01618 342100 or visit www.laytons.com

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (1 March, ’07)