Multiple Florida equine professionals, including veterinarians and a horse trainer, are being sued for allegedly not being transparent in the sale of a $135,000 dressage horse. Plaintiff Marion Mayer alleges the defendants withheld key information throughout the pre-purchase process, despite her repeated due diligence.
Court documents filed in the Circuit Court of Palm Beach County state Mayer is suing her veterinarian Ben Schachter, DVM after he recommended she contact trainer Lauren Sammis about purchasing another dressage mount. Dr. Schachter was treating her horse for a longstanding medical ailment. Co-defendant Sammis claims to import “high quality dressage horses” and is a United States Dressage Federation Gold Medalist, according to the sales website for Sammis Sales, LLC, a Florida registered business, which is also being sued.
A 10-year old Dutch horse named W Double You caught Mayer’s eye. Recently imported from Belgium, the black gelding was advertised as trained through Intermediare and sound. Radiographs from May 2013 were provided to Dr. Schachter by Sammis for review. He advised there was no pathology of any concern, according to the complaint.
In October 2013, Mayer traveled to New Jersey to try the 16.1 hh gelding. The complaint states Sammis told the plaintiff she owned W Double You and was selling him because she likes to select a few horses each year to train for resale.
Mayer decided to move forward with a pre-purchase exam and Dr. Schachter reportedly advised he would handle the examination.
Dr. Schachter selected co-defendant Scott Traphagen, DVM, a Wellington veterinarian, whose New Jersey license was not active at the time of the pre-purchase exam, unbeknownst to Mayer.
Dr. Traphagen allegedly did not contact the plaintiff to determine the scope of the exam and never sent her a written report of the clinical findings after the $3500 vetting. They had no contact since everything was handled by Dr. Schachter.
The complaints states “Dr. Schachter contacted Plaintiff on October 25, 2013, and advised the pre-purchase demonstrated no concerns and that the equine was sound for its age.” Based on that information, Mayer wired the $135,000 to Sammis.
The horse remained with the trainer for a few weeks. Sammis brought the gelding to his new owner in December when she came to Florida, but the horse was lame when it arrived. Dr. Schachter advised upon examination that the horse required “general maintenance.”
The plaintiff sought a second opinion from another veterinarian who reviewed the X-rays from May 2013 and “detected a bone fragment in the left hind fetlock of the equine… where the horse demonstrated unsoundness.”
Dr. Schachter reportedly told Mayer there was no bone fragment on the radiographs from October, but when he looked at the May X-rays he “advised the bone fragment was present all along.”
When the Plaintiff requested the written veterinary report from Dr. Traphagen, she learned the report was “absent of any radiographic interpretation as it pertained to the 42 films he took at the time of pre-purchase examination.”
Sammis was aware of the bone fragment, but she never provided the written vet report from May 29, 2013, to Mayer until late December 2013, according to the complaint.
Soon after, Mayer learned Sammis never owned W Double You, but was the agent for the horse’s actual owners Dirk Fiechter and Diederik Wigmans of European Dressage Connection, Inc who priced the horse at $90,000.
Florida has strict rules regarding disclosure and commissions in connection with horse sales. Under the state’s law, a violation of these rules can be deemed a deceptive practice.
The complaint states the plaintiff unsuccessfully tried to resolve the matter with the defendants and the horse’s former owners prior to filing the suit.