Legal case over pony shows there are no winners in court *H&H Plus*

  • H&H spoke to both parties following a legal case that was settled out of court the result of which is they each claim to have lost everything...

    A legal dispute over a £25,000 dressage pony has highlighted the fact that all parties in such cases can lose everything.

    Agnetha Hjortsparre, a pony breeder in Sweden, settled out of court in a case involving her stallion Speyksbosch Diablo and UK buyer Damien Harris.

    Mr Harris, of Ghabar Stud, agreed to buy the pony and to pay in instalments, but then said Ms Hjortsparre had misrepresented the pony and that a vetting on his arrival in the UK had shown he was lame. He refused to pay any more and then started legal action against Ms Hjortsparre.

    The two parties agreed Mr Harris would pay Ms Hjortsparre £15,000. But Mr Harris said he had no assets, and if she did not take the pony back in settlement, he would send him to auction.

    Diablo is now back with Ms Hjortsparre but she told H&H she has “lost everything”.

    “It’s money I’ll never get back,” she said. “I didn’t give up because I didn’t want him to have my pony for free, or hardly anything.

    “And there it stops. I’ve borrowed so much to pay for this [case] and I haven’t got any more.”

    Ms Hjortsparre said she had sold Diablo as the rented property she lives in was to be sold. But as she has lost money – her legal costs were over £20,000 – she may have to find a new home. She also said the pony passed a vetting before he was sold.

    “I’m so glad the pony’s back with me as he deserves it, but I thought I’d found him a good home,” she said.

    “It’s been so hard but I’m proud of myself for doing it and I don’t want anyone else to go through this. We had an agreement but I’ve lost everything.”

    Mr Harris told H&H he has lost £40,000. He said he had the pony vetted soon after he arrived in the UK, for insurance, and he was lame. Diablo’s British Dressage record shows he was competing, including at Premier League, that summer and autumn, but Mr Harris said he was having “treatment and acupuncture every two weeks… but we couldn’t keep him sound”.

    Mr Harris admitted he had put his assets into other hands.

    “I spent a lot on this case and at the end of it, was going to get nothing,” he said. “I think the law should be changed and there should be some way of finding out what someone’s got beforehand; this has been a nightmare.”

    Barrister Paul O’Callaghan, who acted for Ms Hjortsparre in the latter stages of her case, said he explains to all clients at the outset that anyone bringing a claim in a civil court should check the other party’s assets.

    “If they don’t, the court judgement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on,” he told H&H.

    “If it can’t be enforced, you won’t get the compensation awarded or settled in this case. The difficulty is that there are those people who know how the system works, and how to limit their potential liability.”

    Mr O’Callaghan said Mr Harris “went to great lengths to disassociate himself” from the stud, and that as examination of documents showed it would be difficult to bring a claim against anyone else, the case proceeded.

    Mr O’Callaghan said there is little that can be done when people transfer assets into others’ names, but there are other ways money can be recovered.

    If someone is employed, a claimant can apply for earnings to be diverted, or if the other party is to receive a sum of money, another order can be applied for.

    Also, judgements remain applicable for property or assets someone may accrue in future.

    “If circumstances change, it’s possible to enforce a judgement to the full extent,” he said.

    You may also be interested in…