Q: I bought a kind, talented pony for my daughter to play polo on at school level. A year later, my daughter gave up and I sold the pony to another polo player.
Now, two years on, I have received a county court claim form telling me that, in his view, the mare was not as described — she was difficult to play and could only be used as a hack — and she’d been put down after she got an infection.
He is claiming £3,000 for the mare and £85 for his costs. Where do I stand?
Claims for breach of contract, such as this, can be brought within six years of the alleged breach.
“The purchaser could ordinarily either reject the pony and seek his money back or seek damages,” said Elizabeth Simpson, senior solicitor at law firm Andrew M Jackson. “If the former, this must be done promptly and two years appears an unreasonably long time. Had the pony lived, I would not expect such a claim to succeed.”
“The fact that he also allowed the pony to be put down before raising any question over its suitability for polo will, potentially, impact heavily upon the merits of his case,” said Eleanor Temple, barrister from Kings Chambers in Leeds. “Fellow polo team members, their parents or a team trainer may be able to provide helpful witness evidence from the time your daughter rode her.”
Relevant polo club records from the date of the sale of the pony could also establish when and why the pony stopped competing.
“I would also be interested in seeing the pony’s veterinary records between sale and destruction,” said Eleanor.
The purchaser may have a claim for damages if he can prove representations made about the pony were false and that he has suffered loss as a result.
“If no pre-action letter was sent to you and the proceedings were the first you knew about the matter, this would not find favour with the court as litigation should be a last resort,” added Elizabeth Simpson. “The claim is likely to end up in the small claims court where neither party could expect to recover their legal costs, if any.”
• Andrew Jackson, tel: 01482 325242 www.andrewjackson.co.uk
• Kings Chambers, tel: 0113 242 1123 www.kingschambers.com
This article was first published in Horse & Hound (18 December, ’08)