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Thread: Question about lawsuits

  1. #1
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    Question about lawsuits

    Advice is appreciated.

    My mother in law use to own a horse, but my mother in law has passed away, and legally, the ownership went to my wife. My wife could not afford to pay board for the horse, so she leased him out to her aunt, who took him to a stable, and signed him in to be boarded at the stable.

    Her aunt defaulted on her payments, and my wife ended up signing the ownership of the horse over to someone else. The other person ended up taking over payments. My wife's aunt is still behind on board payments, and the owner of the stable is threatening to sue my WIFE over the payment, even though my wife's aunt is the one who signed him in.

    Can this go over in court? Or would it be her aunt that would be responsible?

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    I dont know much about lawsuits but IMO your wife should be suing, not being sued. I think a countersuit is in order, that should put you back on equal footing, let the judge sort it out. If I were you, I'd be calling several attorneys to get multiple opinions.

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    Regular Member bom1911's Avatar
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    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't see how your wife has anything to do with a contract between her aunt and another party.

    When your wife leased the horse to her aunt, what kind of agreement did they have?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    Advice is appreciated.

    My mother in law use to own a horse, but my mother in law has passed away, and legally, the ownership went to my wife. My wife could not afford to pay board for the horse, so she leased him out to her aunt, who took him to a stable, and signed him in to be boarded at the stable.

    Her aunt defaulted on her payments, and my wife ended up signing the ownership of the horse over to someone else. The other person ended up taking over payments. My wife's aunt is still behind on board payments, and the owner of the stable is threatening to sue my WIFE over the payment, even though my wife's aunt is the one who signed him in.

    Can this go over in court? Or would it be her aunt that would be responsible?
    You need the advice of a lawyer, not message board posters. None of us here knows what liability attaches to the owner of the horse under the circumstances described.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bom1911 View Post
    I'm not a lawyer, but I don't see how your wife has anything to do with a contract between her aunt and another party.

    When your wife leased the horse to her aunt, what kind of agreement did they have?
    Her aunt verbally agreed to take financial responsibility for the horse, and ended up moving him to his current stables, and signed him in.

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    um, Im the bom, not u.

    Just kidding

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    Doesn't mean that someone can't give me some sort of an opinion. It's hard to find a lawyer to give an opinion without charging a consultation fee these days.

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    We would if we could, you should know that. Nobody wants to give you bad advice, so we gave you the best advice we could. Get a lawyer. Isn't it worth the legwork?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    Doesn't mean that someone can't give me some sort of an opinion.
    Okay. My opinion is you should sit tight, do nothing, and hope it all goes away.

    I'm sure things will work out just fine.
    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124
    It's hard to find a lawyer to give an opinion without charging a consultation fee these days.
    Imagine that. An expert in his field actually expects to be paid for his services. How odd.

    But seriously - you get what you pay for. Penny wise, pound foolish and all that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LV XD9 View Post
    Okay. My opinion is you should sit tight, do nothing, and hope it all goes away.

    I'm sure things will work out just fine.

    Imagine that. An expert in his field actually expects to be paid for his services. How odd.

    But seriously - you get what you pay for. Penny wise, pound foolish and all that.
    Well I wouldn't pay for services that don't require my immediate attention. This was more so a question asked out of curiosity, because nothing has even come up. I'm not looking for cold, hard case dockets of similar experiences or anything. I just wanted to hear some opinions from people who may be a bit knowledgeable on the subject. I know some people have responded, and I appreciate it, but maybe there are some people on here who are familiar with what I'm asking.
    Last edited by Aaron1124; 05-11-2011 at 01:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    Well I wouldn't pay for services that don't require my immediate attention.
    Yeah, you're probably right - better to wait till the situation's at a head and requires your immediate attention. That would be the prudent course to take.


    Again - penny wise, pound foolish. Good luck with that.

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    If it came down to us getting served with a court notice, then I'd consult, because it generally takes 40-60 days before the date is set here. The actual attorney would most likely not be allowed to appear in court.
    Last edited by Aaron1124; 05-11-2011 at 02:42 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    Her aunt verbally agreed to take financial responsibility for the horse, and ended up moving him to his current stables, and signed him in.
    She took responsibility to the party that had the contract with her aunt? Sounds like you need a lawyer.

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    I'll try and explain it a bit better. I threw it all together real quick in my OP.

    The horse had been located at a particular stable for many years, when my mother in law had him. After the passing of my mother in law, my wife was not able to maintain his board payments at his then current location. My wife's aunt told her she would like to take him, but she'd have to move him closer to her. My wife agreed to let her aunt move him, and care for him, with the exception that my wife still has ownership over him. Her aunt then moved him to another city, and signed him into a new boarding facility. Her aunt signed a boarding contract with the stables. Her aunt has defaulted on the payment, and my wife has since given up ownership to someone else who has taken over payments for him.

    Her aunt still owes money from back owed board. According to many third parties, the owner of the stables is going to try to take either my wife, or her aunt, to small claims court.

    I have heard nothing from the stables itself, and I don't know if I will, considering

    A) She didn't sign a contract with the stables. Her aunt did.

    B) She doesn't have current ownership of the horse.


    If I could afford a consultation, I would, but there's a reason we weren't able to keep the horse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    If I could afford a consultation, I would, but there's a reason we weren't able to keep the horse.
    What's the reason for retaining ownership of an animal you couldn't afford to care for, instead of selling the horse outright to begin with? And why would you transfer it from one family that can't afford it to another that clearly couldn't either?

    As for the attorney fees, you'll have to weigh that against the potential judgement against you. Since you haven't disclosed how much is owed (other than mentioning small claims court, which means the max would be $5 grand,) there's not much to go by. I doubt an initial consultation fee would cost that much, but you'll never know until you ask.

    The fact that you started this thread in the first place shows that you're concerned they may come after you. Now it's up to you to either be proactive or bury your head in the sand and hope for the best.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LV XD9 View Post
    What's the reason for retaining ownership of an animal you couldn't afford to care for, instead of selling the horse outright to begin with? And why would you transfer it from one family that can't afford it to another that clearly couldn't either?
    To answer your first question: My wife's aunt ensured her that she'd be able to keep him, long term, and continue to pay for his board. I don't know how well off she is. It's not like I keep track of her bank statements or anything. If she was willing to do that, then I'm not in a position to question her. She's the one who ensured she'd be able to do it.

    The amount owed is about $210.00. Which is one months' board. And I can not afford to hire an attorney, when I'm having to take out loans in order to pay rent, since I've been having trouble with jobs.

    We also didn't sell the horse. My wife just gave up ownership. We didn't have the time to find someone who wanted to buy him.
    Last edited by Aaron1124; 05-11-2011 at 05:14 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    The amount owed is about $210.00. Which is one months' board. And I can not afford to hire an attorney, when I'm having to take out loans in order to pay rent, since I've been having trouble with jobs.
    Really? This is over $210? Your wife's aunt won't make payments on that to pay it off? And this is the person you thought was financially solvent enough to care for a horse long-term?

    Of course you wouldn't hire an attorney over this matter. If you'd mentioned the amount owed in the OP, you would have received far fewer suggestions to consult a lawyer.

    $35 a month over six months would take care of it. Surely, between you, your wife, and your wife's aunt, you can come up with a solution to this tiny, insignificant problem. What you really should do is man up and pay it off over time. Consider it a $210 lesson that making rash, irresponsible financial decisions have consequences - you'll be getting off cheaply in the end.
    Last edited by LV XD9; 05-11-2011 at 05:55 PM. Reason: Fixed typo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    To answer your first question: My wife's aunt ensured her that she'd be able to keep him, long term, and continue to pay for his board. I don't know how well off she is. It's not like I keep track of her bank statements or anything. If she was willing to do that, then I'm not in a position to question her. She's the one who ensured she'd be able to do it.
    That didn't answer my first question, which was "What's the reason for retaining ownership of an animal you couldn't afford to care for, instead of selling the horse outright to begin with?"

    Why did you insist on "leasing" the animal to your aunt instead of simply selling the animal to someone? Why did your wife insist on retaining ownership for the animal when she wasn't going to care for the animal and apparently didn't want to be financially responsible for the animal?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LV XD9 View Post
    Really? This is over $210? Your wife's aunt won't make payments on that to pay it off? And this is the person you thought was financially solvent enough to care for a horse long-term?

    Of course you wouldn't hire an attorney over this matter. If you'd mentioned the amount owed in the OP, you would have received far fewer suggestions to consult a lawyer.

    $35 a month over six months would take care of it. Surely, between you, your wife, and your wife's aunt, you can come up with a solution to this tiny, insignificant problem. What you really should do is man up and pay it off over time. Consider it a $210 lesson that making rash, irresponsible financial decisions have consequences - you'll be getting off cheaply in the end.
    Talked to the owner of the stables, and he said he never intended on coming after my wife, as he has no legal grounds to do so. It was all miscommunication spread down through the grape vines. Why would I man up and pay something that I have nothing to do with?
    Neither of us are aware of the aunt's financial situation. She ensured us she is capable of of making payments. That was good enough. She works, and makes good money. That'd be like blaming an apartment for leasing to a tenant who has provided proof of income, yet, blows all of their money, and then telling the apartment that they should have "known better" to lease to the individual.

    I don't see how it's a problem for my wife retaining ownership of the horse, if it wasn't costing her anything financially. Remember, her aunt guaranteed her she'd pay his board for at least a year. She was basically giving all rights to her aunt. The only reason she wanted to retain ownership is so she can have the final say if her aunt decided to sell him at any point -- and then evaluate OUR financial status at that time, to determine if we're currently capable of taking care of him, if it did come to that road. And I do not know if the aunt is going to make monthly payments or not. She's not currently returning our phone calls. I have no idea what her plans are. She's normally a responsible person. Neither of us would have any reason to believe otherwise.

    None of it matters now, anyway.
    Last edited by Aaron1124; 05-11-2011 at 10:57 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aaron1124 View Post
    The horse had been located at a particular stable for many years, when my mother in law had him. After the passing of my mother in law, my wife was not able to maintain his board payments at his then current location. My wife's aunt told her she would like to take him, but she'd have to move him closer to her. My wife agreed to let her aunt move him, and care for him, with the exception that my wife still has ownership over him.
    Ownership doesn't necessarily imply liability. Essentially, when your wife's aunt signed the horse in, the aunt was acting as your wife's agent, but the aunt also offered to take over boarding payments, which is a form of consideration i.e. payment to take the horse?

    Her aunt then moved him to another city, and signed him into a new boarding facility. Her aunt signed a boarding contract with the stables. Her aunt has defaulted on the payment, and my wife has since given up ownership to someone else who has taken over payments for him.
    Both points complicate things. The contract was between the aunt and the stables, but your aunt's role was an an agent.

    Question: Was your wife herself ever late on payments?

    According to many third parties, the owner of the stables is going to try to take either my wife...
    Your wife may be liable for back payments, but so long as whoever she gave up ownership to was informed the horse came attached with a liability, the new owner is responsible, not your wife.

    Question: What agreement was made between your wife and the new owner? Did she sell the horse or simply give him away? The portion of boarding payments in arrears less than fair market value for the horse could be awarded to be paid by the new owner, but only if that was included in the agreement.

    ...her aunt, to small claims court. Although she never owned him, she did sign him in, so she may be liable for back payments.
    Yes she may.

    I have heard nothing from the stables itself, and I don't know if I will, considering

    A) She didn't sign a contract with the stables. Her aunt did.

    B) She doesn't have current ownership of the horse.
    If the stables names her in a suit, you'll be hearing from them.

    If I could afford a consultation, I would, but there's a reason we weren't able to keep the horse.
    Check around. Some lawyers will have free consultations.

    To recap (something for your own attorney), you should answer the questions above and include the following:

    1. Copies of any and all written agreements between any and all parties (wife, aunt, new owner).

    2. Receipts of any monies exchanged between the parties, including all boarding payment receipts. Cancelled checks would suffice.

    3. I'd also shorten the above into bullets, as in:

    - January 1, 2000: Wife inherets "Clyde" the horse.

    - March 1, 2000: Wife realizes she cannot make payments.

    - March 17, 2000: Wife concludes negotiations with wife's aunt concerning Clyde. Horse to be moved to Louisvill and boarded at Stable X for $500 a month. Wife's aunt agrees to pay 100% of all boarding costs, provided wife retains ownership. No written agreement was reached.

    - March 19, 2000: Horse admitted to Stable X. For boarding agreement see Attachment A.

    etc.

    Good luck!
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