Yard Owner Sued After Assisting in Horse Purchase
Yard owner Shona Ferguson was asked by Annette Warner to provide assistance in purchasing a horse. Ms Ferguson accepted £30 for her time but then found herself in court when Annette later fell from the horse and sustained injuries.
Ms Ferguson, of Manorfields Farm near Shrewsbury, had been asked to accompany Ms Warner to view horses and accepted £30 for her time on three occasions. The two women viewed a horse called Jilly at the seller’s yard. Ms Ferguson advised Ms Warner not to buy the horse as a veterinary check revealed a swollen stomach. But Ms Warner pressed ahead with the sale as the seller had commented that the £200 horse would be destroyed if Ms Warner didn’t take it on.
The mare was then kept at Manorfields Farm. No issues with her behaviour were noted during six riding lessons undertaken by Ms Warner. But two months after buying the horse, Ms Warner fell after Jilly ran towards a fence and would not stop.
Ms Warner then decided to sue Shona Ferguson!
The hearing took place at Stoke-On-Trent county court 1-2 November. The court was told by Ms Ferguson and other witnesses that Annette Warner had not accepted advice on how to care for the horse. The court accepted that Ms Ferguson had explained to Ms Warner that she was not an expert in choosing horses for their owners and so had not created legal relations.
The Right Horse?
Jilly had behaved well from the date of purchase until the moment of the accident, despite the lack of exercise provided by Ms Warner. The court therefore considered that the horse had been suitable for Ms Warner at the time she was purchased. The court also accepted that Ms Ferguson had followed the correct procedures in advising Ms Warner. The case against Shona Ferguson was dismissed.
New Bridle Contributes to Accident
A new bridle had been purchased for Jilly just prior to the accident. This could have contributed to her change of behaviour as it was incorrectly fitted.
Shona Ferguson was incredibly relieved to see the case against her dismissed. Her home and farm were at stake due to the compensation which could potentially have been awarded. In fighting the claim, Shona faced having to pay Ms Warner’s legal fees of £84,000, her own legal fees and compensation.
Footing the Bill
Sadly, changes in the rules to personal injury claims may mean that Ms Ferguson could still be left footing the bill for her own legal costs. She would normally only be able to recover her costs if the claim turned out to be fraudulent. However, Ms Warner’s claim was funded by a conditional fee agreement under the old rules. A second hearing will establish who is liable for Ms Ferguson’s legal costs.
Equestrians should be aware that there could be serious consequences if they accept payment for assisting in a horse purchase. Also, they should be aware if an acquaintance relies on their advice in purchasing a horse and an accident ensues.