A Swiss buyer of a show jumper in Belgium triumphs in litigation procedure against a Belgian veterinarian

The in Switzerland located client of Beelen Advocaten in Leuven and Schelstraete Advocaten in the Netherlands had a pre-purchase vet check performed by a veterinarian located in Belgium. The horse in question was an expensive show jumper which was clinically and radiographically examined by the veterinarian. The vet check took place on June the 4th 2010 after which the veterinarian concluded: “Ok clinical and radio graphical examination. The horse is sound and there is a positive advice with regards to the horse performing as a sportshorse”.

Shortly after the delivery took place things went wrong. The buyer stated that the horse was suffering from podotrochleosis on the left front leg.

According to the buyer the vet should have discovered this during the pre-purchase vet check now that the radiographs which were made showed significant changes such as abnormalities around the navicular bone. The veterinarian wasn’t supposed to have classified the navicular bone as a normal class 2 risk but he should have classified it as a class 3 risk which signifies an increased risk.

The veterinarian was summoned to Court in Antwerp which rejected the claim of the buyer in 2014.

The buyer did not give up and turned to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal came to a judgement on March the 20th 2017. In this Court ruling the claims of the buyer were awarded such as the purchase price, pre-purchase vet check expenses, transport costs, treatment costs and a large amount of the stabling and litigation expenses. With regards to the purchase price the veterinarian had to compensate this minus 5% as this 5% represented the remaining value of the horse.

Conclusion: This outcome shows that it pays off to start a litigation procedure against veterinarians who did not perform the essential elements of a pre-purchase vet examination properly resulting in a wrong image for the buyer with regards to the risks. The veterinarian in question only received a compensation of 300,- euro for his work whilst the claimed damages all together were set at nearly 100.000,- euro.

Beelen Advocaten is located in Leuven and is the Belgian Alliance Partner of the European US Asian Equine Lawyers: “a new Alliance of the world’s leading Equine law firms.”