Legal Question in Civil Litigation in Washington

I had a horse colt boarded at a persons property... That person put sick horses in with mine and he got a cold... we brought him in and gave him some antibiotics...I came back the next day, my colt was looking better so I wormed him... I came back that afternoon and he was wobbling, sick and didn't want to move... the property owner then told me he had already given my colt wormer intended for use in beef cows... I called the vet and hauled my colt to him... he said it was toxicosis, and that too much wormer made him colic... the vet put mineral oil in my colt to see if he could get things moving again ... two days later my colt died as a result of colicing.. Since the property owner did not ask or tell me that he had given my horse wormer before he did or before I wormed my colt and did so wothout my permission is he liable for him? I called him and told him we needed to talk and he threatened me.. He said if i tried to sue him bad things would happen..

Asked on 4/05/10, 8:13 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Amir John Showrai The Pacific Law Firm, PLLC

Initially, I would say that the property owner is liable for giving your colt wormer, particularly one made for beef cows. What my opinion hinges on in part is whether you had a written contract with the property owner, and if so, what did that say with respect to providing medical care for your colt in your absence? Another part of my opinion goes to something I don't now about this particular industry, which is, what is the standard practice (if there is one) in this situation?

If the property owner followed an established standard practice for boarding horses, then I think your case is in trouble. If they failed to follow the established standard, then I think your case looks good, and if there is no standard practice, then we're back to whether you had a written agreement that covered this type of event and what to do in case of illness.

Make sure you have a written report of what caused the colt's death, and bear in mind that you can only recover what was spent on the vet bills, as well as the colt's market value had you sold him, say one day before he became ill, when he was still healthy. In other words, you are entitled to whatever it costs to get a similar colt of a similar age and type (arabian, quarter horse, etc.) as the one you had. Although your colt probably suffered a very difficult death, for the most part, you cannot recover for its pain and suffering, since animals are considered property. (Please note, an animal law specialist may have case law that says you can recover for pain and suffering, and I have not researched this in depth lately, but any attorney capable of doing legal research can tell you the state of the law on this topic after looking it up.)

As for the property owner's threat to you, only you can judge how serious this person is, and what they intimate they will do if you sue. Sometimes, taking your personal safety into consideration is wiser than standing on the principal of righting a wrong. You can always try to obtain an injunction keeping the property owner away from you, but that may be tough to get without proof of the threat (such as a letter, e-mail, or recording of the threat) or without unbiased and credible witnesses to say what they heard.

Best of luck, and sorry about your colt.

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Answered on 4/11/10, 2:09 am

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