A two-inch height difference, the account of a horse’s performance and the fact its owner or her selling status was not clearly identified were among the factors set out in a legal dispute over a £7,500 dressage horse which could result in a bill of £200,000 for the seller.
After a four-day county court trial, a judge ruled Daniel Davies bought then nine-year-old KWPN mare Amazing V (Maisie, pictured) in autumn 2014, as a result of misrepresentations made concerning the horse’s height and competition record.
Recorder Khan found Jemma Coburn of Cheshire-based Team Two Mills, which was acting as agent for the sale, was “fraudulent or at least negligent” in telling Mr Davies Maisie was 17hh, when she was 17.2hh.
Mr Davies, a retired solicitor who took up riding at 42 and is now 65, had told the agents he needed a 17hh horse or smaller as this was the maximum height he could transport in his two horseboxes.
“I am satisfied and find as a fact that Maisie’s height at 17 hands was a misrepresentation which induced Mr Davies to enter into the contract with the horse’s owner Mrs Metcalf,” the judge wrote.
Recorder Khan did not find Maisie’s behaviour to be the basis of any misrepresentation, despite the fact Mr Davies’ trainer Mark Meade said Maisie was “bucking regularly” by January 2015, including on one occasion causing Mr Meade to fall off.
The judge found no evidence the horse had reared or bucked while with the agents or before the sale to Mrs Metcalf, and that “in my judgement the representations were innocent; Mrs Coburn had reasonable grounds to believe and did believe… that what she said was true”.
But he did find Mrs Coburn’s telling Mr Davies the horse had “had no problems qualifying for the regionals”, and had passed her KWPN IBOP (suitability performance) test with “flying colours” when she had achieved the pass mark of only 75 (the minimum mark required), were “fraudulent or at least negligent” misrepresentations which also induced Mr Davies to buy Maisie. The judge also found there had been a breach of contract along these lines.
In a telephone conversation with Adele Plant of Team Two Mills on 10 February 2015, Mr Davies asked for his money back, but Ms Plant refused to refund him, saying there was no suitable horse to offer as a swap, offering instead to sell the horse on Mr Davies’ behalf, while charging him livery. Mr Davies would not agree to this, or permit TTM to act on his behalf.
Mr Davies eventually gave Maisie to a stud farm; the judge was satisfied the horse was reasonably given away as having no commercial value.
In April 2015, Mr Davies wrote to Mrs Metcalf detailing the losses he had sustained, which totalled some £14,022.38. He told Mrs Metcalf he would be looking for compensation for the “inconvenience, loss of amenity and disappointment he had sustained” as a result of “misrepresentation and breach of contract”.
The judge awarded Mr Davies £14,397.68, as all the costs he incurred as a result of buying Maisie, and an extra £2,200 as “Mr Davies has had no pleasure in riding Maisie, and the whole episode has left him frustrated. He is entitled to damages accordingly”.
A further hearing is to be held which will determine how much Mrs Metcalf must pay Mr Davies in costs. If costs are awarded on an indemnity basis – when the benefit of any doubt as to whether they were reasonably incurred is given to the receiver of the money – Mr Davies estimates Mrs Metcalf could be hit with a bill of more than £200,000, including her own expenses.
“This is a tremendous weight off my shoulders,” he told H&H. “I think I’ve got a good case for indemnity costs.”
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Mrs Coburn told H&H Maisie “did not put a foot wrong while she was with us”, and that Mrs Metcalf and her family are “lovely people”.