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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 27692
Experience:  Lawyer
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We currently have a horse in our possession that we have had

Customer Question

We currently have a horse in our possession that we have had for 1 year. We pay all expenses including vet, feed, blacksmith and boarding. The girl who owned her wants to take her back. All bills and records are in our name. Does she have any legal rights to take the horse.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

How did you get the horse into your possession? Was it a gift from the prior owner? What discussions did you have when she left the horse with you? Is there a certificate of registration for the horse that was signed over to you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We originally offered to help the owner because she couldn't afford to keep the horse then we decided to lease her with the owner paying for 1/2 of the bills. That didn't last long and we wound up paying for everything when the owner couldn't pay. The horse was in thrifty condition when we took her over. Since then we post pics and show her how good the horse is doing and now she wants to take her back because her ego is hurt. She actually just wants to dictate what my daughter does with the horse.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
In a year she has seen the horse 2 times, one resulting in an injury to the horse and the owner being banned from our barn by the barn owner.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The horse is not registered however all vet bills are in our name
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hello?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Was there any discussion of her giving you the horse or of you buying it from her?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Do you happen to know what the horse's value is?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She originally paid $800 for her. She verbally agreed that if she tried to take her back that she would owe 1/2 of her expenses as per original plan. Now she is saying that isn't the case
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She bought the horse roughly 6 yrs ago
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Ok, thank you. I'm going to look at some statutes for you, and I should have an answer in a few minutes. You don't have to wait - the site will notify you.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

The statement that she agreed to pay half the expenses if she tried to take the horse back makes it sound like she gave you the horse as a gift. What's interesting is that, if a judge finds that she didn't, then she owes you 100% of the expenses, so it's really in her best interests to just pay you the half. That's because there's a concept in the law called unjust enrichment. If she left the horse with you knowing that you were going to pay for it, and knowing that you'd expect to be reimbursed if she tried to take it back, and she allowed you to spend money on the horse without telling you she wasn't going to pay you back, then it's not legally considered fair for her to keep the horse and the money. So if the horse DOES belong to her, and she left it with you for you to pay for all it's care, then you can sue her for reimbursement of all the money you're out - which I suspect is significantly more than the value of the horse.

The next question is going to be whether the horse is abandoned. Massachusetts doesn't have a statute that directly speaks to this, so it comes down to whether a reasonable person in your situation would have believed the animal was abandoned. If she left the horse with you, didn't feed it, didn't visit regularly, didn't pay the bills, and didn't regularly communicate with you about the animal or picking it up - it starts to look like she abandoned her. Two years is a long time.

The other issue with her suing you is that this is the type of case that would normally wind up in Small Claims Court. But a Small Claims Court judge can't order you to return the horse - he could only order you to pay for it. If she sued you in Small Claims, you'd be able to countersue for the money you spent... and the end result would likely be that you'd still have the horse and she'd have to pay you. So you may be able to try to work something out where she allows you to keep the horse in exchange for you not suing for the money you've spent. She COULD sue in the District Court for the return of the horse, but it's more time-consuming and the filing fees are higher.

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