Dressage horse with a defect (in coordination of the hind legs due to a cause in the cervical vertebrae); purchase validly annulled out of court on the grounds of mutual mistake. The costs incurred for the horse during its stay with the buyer must be reimbursed by the seller on the grounds of unjust enrichment; horse must be collected on pain of a penalty. The awarded claim of €55,000 purchase price rose to €104,000 including stabling, legal and interest costs.
A client of Schelstraete Advocaten, a professional dressage rider, bought a dressage horse under the condition of veterinary approval. During the purchase inspection, blood was also taken from the horse. This was not immediately examined. The purchase inspection resulted in a positive purchase recommendation and the horse was subsequently purchased by the client for €55,000. One week after the horse was delivered, the client noticed abnormal behaviour in the right hind leg. The blood sample taken was examined and the painkiller Lidocaine was found. This substance is on the doping list of the International Federation of Equestrian Sports (FEI). The client informed the seller that she wished to withdraw from the sale and placed a prejudgment attachment on the seller’s bank account after the seller indicated that he would not take back the horse.
The client based her claim on the fact that at the time of the purchase agreement, the horse was suffering from a defect, consisting of a severe incoordination of the hind legs which is linked to arthritic changes in the cervical vertebra (facet joint C6-C7), as a result of which it cannot function in dressage sport, and further that the horse had been administered lidocaine, which affected the clinical picture at the time of the purchase inspection, so that this defect was not visible at that time.
In the interlocutory judgment of 15 September 2020, the Court of Appeal ruled that the client was right to invoke mutual mistake. After all, there was a misrepresentation at the time of purchase. As a result, the purchase agreement is deemed never to have been concluded and the horse is deemed never to have left the seller’s assets. The seller must repay the purchase price to the client, including the statutory interest and other costs claimed in this respect, which are not disputed.
In its judgment of 16 March 2021, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgments of the District Court in Overijssel, sitting at Almelo 27 December 2017 and 22 August 2018, and declared that the client had validly annulled the purchase agreement concluded between her and the seller in respect of the horse.
Although the purchase price amounted to only 55,000, the claim of the buyer against the seller increased to no less than 104,000.
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Source: ECLI:NL:GHARL:2021:2692, Court of Appeal Arnhem-Leeuwarden, 200.247.680