A buyer has been forced to settle for libel after she posted videos online of a pony bucking and called the seller’s practices a “scandal”.
The case involved a polo pony named Lady Gaga, who Kate Gibbons bought for her son in September 2012 from Oxfordshire dealer Louisa Donovan.
Judge Richard Parkes heard in High Court in London last week (21 October) that less than six months after buying the pony, Mrs Gibbons was unhappy and claimed that it was “unsuitable” for her children to ride.
The situation reached a stalemate — with Mrs Donovan refusing to take the pony back — and in February 2013 Mrs Gibbons arranged for her husband to upload two videos that showed a polo pony bucking while being lunged.
The caption named Mrs Donovan’s company and read: “Louisa Donovan sold this polo pony as being suitable for children. Downright dangerous and a scandal they get away with this.”
Four months later, a third video was uploaded with the same footage and caption. All remained on the YouTube site until February this year.
Mrs Donovan only found out about the videos when a friend discovered them online, and she told H&H it was “shocking”.
She began libel proceedings as she felt the videos were “slurring” her business. Mrs Gibbons denied the claim arguing the videos were just “honest opinion”.
Last Tuesday the judge found in favour of Mrs Donovan on the preliminary issue of whether the words were defamatory under common law.
“The ordinary, reasonable person watching the video will have concluded that the claimant had sold the defendant a dangerous pony as being suitable for children, even though she must have known that it was in fact wholly unsuitable for them,” Judge Parkes said.
As a result of the preliminary decision the rest of the case was settled out of court for an unrevealed sum.
Mrs Donovan told H&H that she was “relieved” that the situation had been resolved.
“For people nowadays selling horses it is a minefield,” she said. “We were in a fortunate position that we could pursue the defamatory claim, but many people would find it financially restrictive.”
Mrs Donovan bought the now 11-year-old pony back, in December last year, and has not had any problems with her.
“She has been fine and has never done anything wrong,” she said. “I have been playing 2-goal to 12-goal with her all summer.”
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (30 October 2014).