Sale declared void due to use of banned painkiller

A client of Schelstraete Lawyers, a professional dressage rider, bought a horse on the condition of first obtaining veterinary approval. A pre-purchase inspection was conducted wherein blood was drawn from the horse, although this blood was not immediately analysed. The purchase inspection resulted in positive purchase advice being given by the vet and the horse was subsequently purchased by the client for € 55,000.

One week after the delivery of the horse, the client noticed abnormal behaviour on the right hind leg. At the same time, the blood taken during the veterinary inspection was examined and the blood tested positive for the painkiller Lidocaine. This drug is listed by the International Equestrian Sports Federation (FEI) as a prohibited substance under the Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication Regulations. The client informed the seller that he wanted to cancel the purchase and placed a prejudgment attachment on the seller’s bank account after the seller indicated that he would not accept the horse back in exchange for a refund.

Our Client argued that the horse was suffering from a defect at the time of the purchase agreement which consisted of a serious incoordination of the hind legs related to arthrotic changes in the cervical vertebra (facet joint C6-C7), which ultimately excludes the horse from being suitable for competing in the discipline of dressage. Furthermore, our client submitted that given that Lidocaine was administered to the horse, this affected the clear clinical and physical picture of the horse at the time of purchase inspection, meaning that the defect was not visible at that time.

In December 2017 and again in August 2018, the Overijssel District Court found in favour of the seller.

However, in the interim judgment of 15 September 2020, the Court of Appeal held that the client correctly invoked mutual error given that a misrepresentation was made at the time of the purchase. The purchase agreement was thus deemed to have never been concluded and the horse was deemed to have remained the property of the seller. The Court held that the seller must repay the purchase price to the client as well as uncontested statutory interest and other costs.

In the final judgment of 16 March 2021, the Court of Appeal overturned the judgments of the Overijssel District Court and ruled that our client had legally annulled the purchase agreement concluded between our Client and the seller in relation to the horse. The seller was ordered to pay an amount of € 104,983.67 to our client.

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