Palm Beach County
COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES AND DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Plaintiff, ANDRONICKI SHAH, (Hereinafter “SHAH”) by and through his undersigned attorney sues the Defendants, VALERIE RENIHAN (Hereinafter “RENIHAN”) and MELINDA (MINDY) DARST, (Hereinafter “DARST”) for damages and state as follows:
1. This is an action for damages in excess of Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000.00) and is therefore, within the jurisdiction of this Court.
2. At all times material, Plaintiff, ANDRONICKI MICHELLE SHAH, was and is a resident of Lexington, Massachusetts.
3. Venue is proper in Palm Beach County, Florida as Defendants have significant contact with this county; pursuant to Florida Statute sections 48.071 and 48.181 have done and are currently doing business in the State of Florida, specifically Palm Beach County.
4. At all times material to the allegations in this Complaint Defendants VALERIE RENIHAN and MELINDA (MINDY) DARST have ongoing and consistent business in Palm Beach County, Florida.
5. Defendant VALERIE RENIHAN owns property in Wellington, Florida, Palm Beach County. She is registered to vote in Florida, maintains a Florida driver’s license and has multiple vehicles registered in Florida.
6. Defendant VALERIE RENIHAN resides in Florida from approximately December through April each year and further conducts significant business as a horse trainer and agent in the sales of show horses and ponies. She conducts business at the Winter Equestrian Festival located in Wellington, Florida.
7. Defendant MELINDA (MINDY) DARST owns property in Wellington, Florida, Palm Beach County.
8. Defendant MELINDA (MINDY) DARST resides in Florida from approximately December through April each year and further conducts significant business as a horse trainer
and agent in the sales of show horses and ponies. She conducts her business at the Winter Equestrian Festival located in Wellington, Florida.
9. Defendant MELINDA (MINDY) DARST was subject to jurisdiction in this court in the case of Mattie Fein v. Darst, Case No. 502007CA018921MB filed in 2007.
10. As a result of the acts and omissions of the Defendants, jointly and severally, the Plaintiff had to engage counsel knowledgeable in equine law and as such, has incurred attorney fees and costs.
11. The business of the Hunter/Jumper equine industry is a transient business and the parties conduct their business all through the United States. The business is competitively showing hunters and jumpers for clients; training students, and buying and selling horses.
12. On or about August 2011, Plaintiff traveled with her minor daughter from Massachusetts to Lexington, Kentucky to search for ponies for sale at the USEF 2011 Pony Finals.
13. The USEF Pony Finals is the ultimate invite only event for pony hunters nationwide. Trainers, owners and riders come from all over the country, for one week, to compete for top pony honors.
14. The USEF Pony Finals also hosts a Pony Auction for sellers and buyers of top quality ponies. More ponies are bought and sold during the USEF Pony Finals.
15. Plaintiff SHAH was introduced to pony trainer and agent Sarah Doyle as it relates to looking for ponies to try for sale for her minor daughter.
16. Ms. Doyle represented herself not only a:s the mother of a top pony rider named Ava Stearns, but also a trainer and agent for quality show ponies. Ms. Doyle immediately advised SHAH that the pony named. Raggedy Ann was for sale. Ms. Doyle advised SHAH that the pony was owned by VALERIE RENIHAN a well-known trainer and clinician in the hunter/jumper and equitation disciplines. Doyle also mentioned in passing that DARST had some ownership interest in the pony. Doyle never mentioned What that ownership interest consisted of. Doyle advised SHAH that she would look out for SHAH’s best interest because as a mom, and someone who frequented the same competitions as SHAH’s minor daughter, she wanted to be sure SHAH got the best equine for the price.
17. SHAH did not speak with RENIHAN regarding the pony Raggedy Ann because RENIHAN’s agent Doyle handled the entire course of dealings. SHAH believed that Doyle was
also looking out for SHAH in the transaction.
18. Doyle advised SHAH that the pony was stabled with Defendant MELINDA (MINDY) DARST and was the trainer and representative for the pony as DARST was assisting
RENIHAN in selling the pony.
19. SHAH tried the pony for the minor daughter of SHAH. At the time of the trials, SHAH was concerned that the pony would not do consistent lead changes. Lead changes are necessary for competition because if the equine does not demonstrate clean changes they will not be awarded ribbons in the competition ring.
20. Despite SHAH’s repeated comments of such concern, Doyle, agent for RENIHAN and DARST, noted that the pony always did her changes with her daughter and other riders and this was simply SHAH’s daughter’s inability to know the pony and the changes were present. Doyle also noted the pony had been tried by others and shown thus may have been tired which would cause the lead changes to be missed.
21. The equine was priced to SHAH at $100,000.00 by Doyle. Doyle advised that she would try and get the price down for SHAH.
22. The equine was represented as 8 years old, a material fact for SHAH who did not want to purchase an equine for her daughter that would be devalued as it got older.
23. SHAH believed buying an 8-year-old pony for $100,000.00 would be a better decision than buying an older pony for the same value. Resale value was of utmost importance given children grow rapidly and her child would outgrow the pony. SHAH was cognizant that the pony would need to be resold when outgrown and must retain much of its value.
29. SHAH believed with RENIHAN’s and DARST’s ownership of the pony, Doyle as the concerned mom, and DARST providing the endorsement of the pony, that she was in the best hands. She had total trust. SHAH was certain that these ladies would do right by her and her daughter.
30. Upon meeting DARST, DARST advised SHAH that she was lucky to be given the opportunity to buy Raggedy Ann; that the pony had been in her barn under her training and
care since February 2011; and that it was one of the Nation’s best ponies. That the pony was of such quality that it beat out the top pony in the country Enchanted Forest at competitions in Wellington. Based on the representations of DARST, as trainer of the pony, SHAH was sold on the idea it was a great pony for her minor daughter.
practice in Kentucky and was actually a veterinarian that worked extensively for RENIHAN and DARST in Wellington, Florida. He is licensed in Florida as a veterinarian. This conflict of interest was never disclosed by Doyle, DARST nor RENIHAN.
of said horse/pony and that said horse/pony is free and clear of any liens, judgments or encumbrances and is in good standing with the USEF Federation.”
the USEF records in accordance with the USEF ownership rules. RENIHAN allowed people similarly situated to SHAH to believe the pony was still owned by a third party. Nowhere was
the name DARST noted as the purchaser of said pony from the third party or RENIHAN. (See Exhibit D, USEF records)
69. Defendants breached the contract because at the time they accepted the offer for purchase they were not the USEF listed owners of the pony, the the pony was not eight (8) but ten (10) years old, and its record was not stellar but was in fact wrought with fraud. Moreover, the pony was allegedly purchased for $35,000.00, a true value of the pony, after the Wellington Circuit where its records were allegedly stellar.
77. Doyle advised SHAH the pony was eight years old when in fact it was actually 10 years old. SHAH was very clear she did not want to purchase a pony over 8 years old.
78. Doyle advised SHAH that the pony’s show record was stellar and that judges did not prejudice the pony because of its color when in fact Doyle knew that at the time the pony secured such stellar placing the pony had been altered with a complete dying of the pony’s coat.
79. Doyle advised SHAH that every rider that had sat on the pony was able to secure lead changes.
80. Doyle advised SHAH that the pony was valued at $100,000.00 when in fact it was valued at $35,000.00 or less, a value assigned to said pony in April 2011 AFTER its allegedly stellar performance.
81. SHAH detrimentally relied upon the statements by Doyle, acting as agent for RENIHAN, as she purchased the pony based on these statements which were knowingly false when made. Such fabrications by Doyle caused SHA to detrimentally rely on the information to justify why the pony was worth $100,000.00.
82. Had Doyle advised SHAH that the pony was 10 years old, or that Doyle’s own daughter could not do lead changes on the pony, or that the pony’s coat was dyed in an effort to fool the judges and get better placings or that the value of the pony was $35,000.00 or less, SHAH would not have even considered the purchase of the pony.
WHEREFORE the Plaintiff seeks a judgment against the Defendant RENIHAN for the full value of the horse at $100,000.00 and all costs associated with the false sale such as commissions, expenses and replacement equine.
COUNT III – DETRIMENTAL RELIANCE AGAINST DARST
83. The Plaintiff adopts by reference each and every allegation contained in Paragraphs 1-63 as fully set forth herein, and further allege:
84. At all times material hereto, Sarah Doyle acted as the agent for DARST.
85. DARST is responsible for the acts and omissions of her agent Doyle.
86. Doyle advised SHAH that RENIHAN was the owner of the pony and that DARST had an interest in the pony.
87. The fact that DARST owned said pony gave security and comfort to SHAH knowing DARST would not own a pony that was not good quality.
88. Doyle introduced DARST to SHAH but in doing so controlled the conversation.
89. DARST met with SHAH for about five (5) minutes and bragged up the pony as top in the Nation. At no time did DARST disclose her ownership interest in the pony to SHAH.
90. DARST acted hurried in the conversation and deferred SHAH to Doyle, the agent, questions SHAH may have had.
91. DARST advised SHAH that the pony was valued at over $100,000.00 when in fact it was valued at $35,000.00 or less.
92. DARST advised SHAH that she knows ponies of quality and price because she was on the pony task force and knew every pony available for sale. That this pony was the best match for SHAH’s daughter.
93. DARST did pull out her phone and showed SHAH and SHAH’s daughter a video of the pony showing with Ava Stearns at Wellington where DARST claimed the round being watched was one that beat out Enchanted Forest, a pony known to be one of the best in the Nation.
94. SHAH detrimentally relied upon the statements by Doyle, acting as agent for DARST and detrimentally relied on the statements by DARST, as she purchased the pony based on these statements which were later deemed false.
95. Had Doyle or DARST advised SHAH that the pony was 10 years old, or that Doyle’s daughter and DARST riders could not do lead changes on the pony, or that the pony’s coat was dyed in an effort to fool the judges and get better placings or that the value of the pony was $35,000.00 or less, SHAH would not have even considered the purchase of the pony.
96. The comment by DARST that the pony beat Enchanted Forest, when stated by DARST was known to be a false comment as Enchanted Forest did not show at the same show where Raggedy Ann received top placings, while incidentally being dyed a different color in violation of USEF GR802(1)(2011).
WHEREFORE the Plaintiff seeks a judgment against the Defendant DARST for the full value of the horse at $100,000.00 and all costs associated with the false sale such as commissions, expenses, and replacement equine.
COUNT III – FRAUDULENT INDUCEMENT AGAINST RENIHAN AND DARST
97. The Plaintiff adopts by reference each and every allegation contained in Paragraphs 1-63 as fully set forth herein, and further allege:
98. The Defendants, DARST and RENIHAN, purposefully utilized their representative Sarah Doyle, to convey fraudulent information to Plaintiff, SHAH, in an effort to induce to purchase an equine worth $35,000.00 for $100,000.00.
99. The Defendants, DARST and RENIHAN, knew that Plaintiff would also be charged a 10% commission by the agent for SHAH, thus SHAH would be out a total of $110,000.00 for said purchase.
100. SHAH advised Doyle, the representative for DARST and RENIHAN, that she did not want to purchase any equines over the age of 8 years old.
101. Doyle, the representative for DARST and RENIHAN, advised SHAH that the pony was 8 years old and knew when she advanced that information that it was false.
102. Doyle knew that SHAH was not a sophisticated buyer of ponies and that SHAH would rely on the information provided by Doyle.
103. Doyle, the representative for DARST and RENIHAN, brought SHAH and her daughter to the stall of Raggedy Ann and advised them that the pony was the favorite of Doyle’s daughter to ride and show because they won everything and that Doyle’s daughter would be upset at the sale because SHAH’s daughter and the pony would beat Doyle’s.
104. Doyle, representative for DARST and RENIHAN, knew that her daughter had difficulty riding said pony and did not have much success with the pony, thus at the time she conveyed such information to SHAH and her minor daughter she knew it to be false.
105. Doyle, representative for DARST and RENIHAN, when questioned about the lead change ability of the pony being questionable, advised SHAH that the changes were no problem, when in fact when that information was conveyed Doyle knew it to be false.
106. Doyle, representative for DARST and RENIHAN, advised SHAH that the competition record of the equine was exceptional, however, when she advanced that information she knew it to be false. Doyle never admitted to SHAH that the pony was dyed with hair dye to camouflage the appaloosa color of the pony.
107. Doyle failed to advise SHAH that the successful competition records of the equine were as a result of fraud.
108. DARST advised SHAH and her minor daughter that Raggedy Ann had actually beat Enchanted Forest in the show ring In Wellington, Florida, a series of the top shows in the county, when in fact DARST knew when she conveyed that information to SHAH and her daughter that it was false. At no time did Raggedy Ann place over Enchanted Forest at the Wellington shows and in fact, at the show where that claimed to occur by DARST, Enchanted Forest was not even entered to compete.
109. DARST knew and appreciated SHAH was not a sophisticated buyer and she made knowingly false statements in an effort to induce a sale for the financial gain of DARST.
110. Doyle accepted the offer by SHAH of $75,000.00 for the purchase and then later advised SHAH that DARST had been working to sell the pony separate from Doyle’s assistance and had made a deal to sell the pony for $100,000.00 to someone else such that the $75,000.00 acceptance was revoked by Doyle. Doyle knew, as a representative for DARST and RENIHAN, that there was no other buyer for $100,000.00 and that the information conveyed to SHAH was knowingly false and done in an effort to fraudulently induce SHAH to pay the full price of $100,000.00.
111. As a result of the fraudulent statements of DARST and RENIHAN, by and through their representative Doyle, as well as statements made by DARST, Plaintiff SHAH purchased said equine for $100,000.00 and suffered damages far exceeding that amount.
COUNT IV- VIOLATION OF FLORIDA STATUTE 535.16
112. The Plaintiff adopts by reference each and every allegation contained in Paragraphs I-63 as fully set forth herein, and further allege:
113. Both Defendants, DARST and RENIHAN, have domiciles in Wellington, Florida, the county of Palm Beach.
114. Both Defendants, DARST and RENIHAN, conduct substantial business in Florida selling horses and ponies, and training.
115. RENIHAN registered Raggedy Ann as being from Wellington, Florida. (See Exhibit E).
116. The equine that is subject to this lawsuit competed in Florida with either DARST or RENIHAN, or both, as the trainers from February 2011 through May 2011.
117. RENIHAN allegedly purchased the pony from a third party on April 30, 2011, for $35,000.00 when RENIHAN and the equine were both located in Florida. The pony was vetted by Haynes Stevens, DVM, a Florida Licensed vet, at the request of RENIHAN.
118. The only reason said pony and trainers were in Kentucky was for the Pony Finals Competition by which the equine that is subject to this lawsuit qualified and was invited to attend.
119. DARST and RENIHAN, as owners of said equine, failed to follow Florida Statute section 535.16 (2011) when they failed to issue a bill of sale pursuant to Florida Administrative Code 5H-26.001-5H-26.004.
120. Pursuant to Florida law, DARST and RENIHAN were obligated to advise the buyer SHAH that each had an interest in said pony and that their agent was receiving a commission over $500.00 and that SHAH was provided written verification of the amount being paid and agreed to same.
121. DARST and RENIHAN, and their agent Doyle, all violated Florida law by failing to do so.
122. DARST and RENIHAN violated Florida law by initially failing to issue. a Bill of Sale; by RENIHAN issuing a Bill of Sale more than 30 days after the purchase and including a Bill of Sale that in no one reflected the equine purchased nor did the Bill of Sale accurately reflect the true owners of said equine.
123. To date, no Bill of Sale pursuant to Florida law has been provided to Plaintiff SHAH.
124. Had Plaintiff SHAH known that multiple persons would receive a commission from the sale of Raggedy Ann she would not have purchased same.
125. Had Plaintiff SHAH been provided a Bill of Sale pursuant to the Florida law, she would not have purchased said pony, because said Bill of Sale would have reflected the age of 10
years old, not 8 years old, and would have included warranties and guarantees as provided to SHAH that were provided to induce a sale.
Wherefore, the violation of Florida law by DARST and RENIHAN subject them to the provisions of Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the inclusion of damages, attorney fees and treble damages.
DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL
Plaintiffs demand a trial by jury of all issues triable as a matter of right.
Dated: January 23, 2012
STEARNS WEAVER MILLER WEISSLER
ALHADEFF & SITTERSON, P.A.
Attorney for Plaintiff