A good equine case is one where it can be proven that the defendant is liable for the damages that the plaintiff incurred. Photo © Impulse Photography

Is My Equine Case Worth Pursuing?

“Is my equine case worth pursuing?” This is a very common question that often comes up from potential clients. Although there is no one determining factor, here are several important considerations that a possible plaintiff needs to address before actually filing suit:

1. Money

Hurt feelings aside, the plaintiff needs to decide if bringing a lawsuit makes good sense financially. Typically, each party to the lawsuit is responsible for paying their own attorneys’ fees. Exceptions apply only in contract cases where the contract specifically states that the winning party is allowed attorneys’ fees or where it is allowed under a specific statute. The plaintiff needs to weigh the expenses of his/her legal case against the amount of damages that could possibly be recovered. For example, if an attorney estimates that a case might cost $15,000-$30,000 to pursue (depending on a number of factors), the plaintiff would not be entitled to attorneys’ fees, and the damages in question would only amount to $10,000, then it would not make sense to pursue the case. Some clients decide that money is not a factor and say that they want to pursue a case based on principle. That is usually fine to start, but when clients start receiving their legal bills and as time goes on, they too become more frustrated regarding the cost-effectiveness of the case and principle often loses its importance. A second consideration is the ability to actually collect damages from the defendant. Even if the plaintiff wins the case and is awarded a judgment, it might be hard to collect if the defendant does not have sufficient assets to pay.

2. Damages

How much money did the plaintiff lose, and do they have solid proof of that amount? If a horse dies, is seriously injured or becomes permanently lame, the measure of the plaintiff’s damages is the actual fair market value of the horse at the time of the death, injury or onset of lameness. Expert witnesses, like a certified equine appraiser, can sometimes be hired (usually at the client’s expense) to figure out what the damages are. An appraiser will take into account the horse’s show record, health history, pedigree and other relevant factors to assess its fair market value. It doesn’t matter that the horse has sentimental value – in the eyes of the law, he’s worth only what a professional appraiser says he’s worth.

3. Liability

Is it someone else’s fault? Just because the plaintiff suffered a loss doesn’t mean they have a legal case. A good equine case is one where it can be proven that the defendant is liable for the damages that the plaintiff incurred. For a defendant to be liable, a plaintiff needs to be able to prove that the defendant either breached the terms of an agreement with the plaintiff, or was liable in tort to plaintiff. Common torts in equine cases include negligence, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty.

4. Emotional Endurance

A lawsuit can be draining on a plaintiff’s wallet and time, but also on their emotions as well. Litigating an equine issue can be stressful by both amplifying and extending an already difficult situation. A prospective plaintiff should consider their health and well being when deciding whether or not to pursue a lawsuit. As much as the plaintiff would like, an attorney cannot predict how much time or money a lawsuit will take. It depends on a number of factors out of their control, and the court system never moves as fast as anyone would like. The plaintiff needs to be sure they have the emotional stamina to withstand a typically long and drawn-out process.

Carrie Russom Quraishi has been active in the equine industry for many years. She is a member of AQHA, NSBA, and NRHA and is an AQHA World Champion and multiple AQHA national high point champion. Based in Frisco, Texas, the Quraishi Law Firm strives to bring strategic solutions to the unique needs of the equine community. Carrie can be reached at (972) 731-4337 or via email at carrie@quraishilaw.com

This article does not constitute legal advice. When questions arise based on specific situations, direct them to a knowledgeable attorney.