All of the racehorse auction companies publish “As Is” clauses as part of their terms and conditions policy. The clause for the Standardbred Horse Sale Company is typical and reads:

“ALL HORSES ARE SOLD AS IS WITH ALL FAULTS AND DEFECTS. The buying and selling of horses, especially horses purchased to serve as racehorses or broodmares, inevitably involves substantial risk. AS A BIDDER, YOU AGREE TO ACCEPT THAT RISK. THE COMPANY ACCEPTS NONE OF THAT RISK. IF YOU CANNOT ABIDE BY THESE RULES, PLEASE DO NOT BID ON ANY HORSES AT THIS SALE.”

While this language is unambiguous, a recently decided civil case demonstrates that it does not necessarily provide auction companies with legal protection from disgruntled customers.

A buyer at the 2013 Standardbred Horse Sale Company yearling sale purchased a filly for $67,000. Two days later, the buyer had a veterinarian examine the filly. The vet discovered a heart irregularity and suggested the filly be sent to the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. The buyer then contacted the Standardbred Sales Company, who agreed with the New Bolton recommendation. A New Bolton veterinarian examined the filly and corroborated the diagnosis, identifying the problem as congenital and serious, and accurately provided the grim prognosis that the filly would die within four or five years (she died early in her fifth year).

The consignor of the filly turned down a settlement offer made by the buyer and sued him for nonpayment. The case went to a civil trial in December 2018. The jury rendered the verdict that the buyer did not have to pay for his $67,000 purchase.

The jury obviously ignored written and lucid “As Is” verbiage and let their emotions dictate their decision. While this case may not set a legal precedent, there is always the risk that a sympathetic jury in Kentucky, New York, Florida, or another state with horse auctions will do the same.

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