I'm A Victim- Help!
We Must Fight Back!
Many HTT readers find our site after the proverbial horse is out of the barn. They write to us asking the difficult question, “What now?”
From our own experiences and the many dozens of emails we’ve received in the short life of this website, we believe the incidences of horse-selling fraud are significant and widespread-- more so than we ever imagined.
This page is, by necessity, very general advice because each instance of fraud is different and laws vary somewhat from state to state. Importantly, the time periods you may have to take legal action before your claims are "time barred" varies---so you need to seek the advice of an experienced horse lawyer as soon as possible.
Most of the horses sold by the traders are relatively inexpensive. The traders know, and rely on the fact that lawsuits against them would probably cost the buyers far more than the horses are worth, and they are mostly correct. What they may not understand, in this age of the Internet, is the ability of victims to use the Internet to connect with each other. One person may not pursue a case; he’ll just chalk it up to a terrible life lesson. If a group of victims unite, though, that changes the whole picture. Additionally, some states have “consumer fraud” statutes that award a consumer defrauded by a person who solicits and sells goods to the public—which is what a horse purchaser defrauded by a horse trader is – the attorneys’ fees and other legal costs incurred in successfully suing the dishonest horse trader.
If your horse has a Coggins certificate, take a close look. If it doesn't seem accurate, you may have another example of fraud. According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service pertaining to the Coggins certificate:
In compliance with U.S.C. Section 1001, falsification of the form or knowingly using a falsified form is a criminal offense and may result in a fine or imprisonment.
On this site’s page Recent News on HTT we posted two reports of horse traders who have been convicted of fraud. One had to pay restitution and the other is currently in prison. We can fight back.
Knowledge is power, but we should keep in mind that horse traders probably read this site as avidly as horse shoppers. They want to know what we're up to and they'll use this information to their own advantage if they can.
We were fortunate enough to have a long conversation with Michael Brooks Carroll, an attorney who specializes in equine law.
We asked him to weigh in on two separate questions.
First, we wanted to know if a buyer had any recourse if she believed the purchased horse was grossly and knowingly misrepresented by the seller. Mr. Carroll said, emphatically, “Yes.” Every U.S. state has a law that holds a seller liable if that seller makes a false statement or sells without making full disclosure of a material fact concerning the sale and in each state, the anti-fraud law would cover the sale of horses.
Mr. Carroll went on to explain that while small claims court is an option, it may require persistence on the part of the buyer to recover the purchase price of the horse.
He also suggested contacting the state district attorney in the county where the transaction took place. Make an appointment to speak with the deputy in charge of consumer fraud. If you are in contact with other people who have been victimized by the same seller, go together to the meeting with the deputy to describe your experiences.
Mr. Carroll urged anyone buying a horse to get a written contract signed by the seller, or at the very least, a detailed bill of sale, and, if the horse is registered, to not release your money unless you receive the registration papers at the same time. Documentation is always helpful but if you have nothing in writing, you may still have legal recourse even if the “deal” was all verbal and you have witnesses to what was represented to you.
The bottom line? Get legal advice. Keep all documentation, including the original ad for the horse. Fraud is fraud and we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be victimized without fighting back.
The second question for Mr. Carroll concerned a counter-attack against the seller by the buyer. For example, many victims of dishonest horse traders post ads on Craigslist and other Internet sites describing their experiences in an effort to warn others. We asked Mr. Carroll if it was legal to post the dishonest sellers’ actual names.
Mr. Carroll said that truth is an absolute defense for any libel or slander, but…anyone can sue anyone over anything---so going on the attack by publishing things against the seller could get you sued and cost you lots of money to successfully defend yourself. Even if the horse trader filed suit against you the buyer and lost his case, you would still have the expense of hiring your own defense attorney.
We asked about counter-attacks that don’t give actual names but might describe the location or type of horses being sold, making identification fairly easy. Mr. Carroll said that there is a legal principle called a “Doctrine of Innuendo,” and could still conceivably produce legal action against the buyer if you say anything that could be liked to an identification of the horse trader.
Thank you, Mr. Carroll, for your wisdom and warnings. Mr. Carroll’s website is www.carroll-lawsf.com/
Perhaps generic ads asking anyone who has been cheated by a dishonest horse trader in your area ----without using any names or identifying information---to respond would suffice. Chances are good that you would link up with another victim of your seller. After all, most areas won’t support more than a few of these wretched humans.
Remember, if you have been physically injured by a horse whose dangerous tendencies were concealed from you, you may be awarded damages or recover enough money to pay hospital bills, when these cases go to court.
If you feel you've been the victim of a dishonest horse trader and would like to let others know actual names and locations, you can post anonymously on this site:
Helpful hint- select "Services" in the "Choose a Topic" box, and "Horse Traders" in the "Choose a Category" box if you want to file a report. Be sure to read all the fine print.
This work by horsetradertricks.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.