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Seller of show horse that refused to jump denied fraud
U.S. District Court, Southern District, West Palm Beach
Fraud - Misrepresentation; Contracts - Misrepresentation, Breach of Contract, Breach of Warranty; Fraud - Deceptive Trade Practices Act; Business Law - Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act
Alejandro Zendejas v. Colin J. Syquia, Simon Nizri, and Eugenia H. Redman, No. 9:15-cv-81229-KAM
August 18, 2017
Avery S. Chapman; Chapman Galle PLC; Wellington, FL, for Alejandro Zendejas ■ David Yuji Yoshida; Catanese & Wells; Westlake Village, CA, for Alejandro Zendejas ■ T. Randolph Catanese; Catanese & Wells; Westlake Village, CA, for Alejandro Zendejas
Colin J. Syquia,
Eugenia H. Redman
John R. Hart; Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A.; West Palm Beach, FL, for Eugenia H. Redman ■ Patricia A. Leonard; Shutts & Bowen LLP; West Palm Beach, FL, for Colin J. Syquia ■ Colleen L. Smeryage; Shutts & Bowen LLP; West Palm Beach, FL, for Colin J. Syquia ■ Michael Robert Romm; Law Offices of Michael R. Rommm, P.A.; Lauderhill, FL, for Simon Nizri ■ Sarah Cortvriend; Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, P.A.; West Palm Beach, FL, for Eugenia H. Redman
On April 24, 2014, plaintiff Alejandro Zendejas paid $250,000 for a Dutch Warmblood horse, from Eugenie H. Redman. Zendejas told Redman that he would buy the horse, which was named Vorst, only if the horse was prepared to compete at the Grand Prix level and qualify his son for the Mexican Olympic team. There was some due diligence performed prior to the purchase, in the form of a pre-purchase examination of Vorst by a veterinarian retained by Zendejas, consultations with trainers, and demonstration rides by Zendejas's son, an experienced equestrian. After the purchase, Zendejas trained Vorst and placed it in a competition. However, Vorst refused to jump. The refusal was so severe that the horse suffered physical injury and placed Zendejas's son, who was riding, at risk of personal injury. After Vorst repeatedly refused to jump in competitions, Zendejas sought the assistance of a horse trainer who said that Vorst had a history of refusing to jump in competition. Zendejas sued Redman and Colin Syquia, Vorst's trainer, who was employed by Redman and who acted as Redman's agent throughout the transaction, alleging breach of contract, breach of warranties, violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and related claims, such as negligent misrepresentation and fraud. A third defendant was Simon Nizri, a trainer and a professional rider who had introduced Zendejas to Vorst and Syquia, and who was privy to many aspects of the transaction. Nizri was dismissed, without prejudice. Zendejas alleged that Vorst's true condition as a "dirty stopper" was misrepresented to him. A dirty stopper is a term for horses with a tendency to stop short before obstacles intended to be jumped, often resulting in the rider being thrown. Zendejas specifically asserted there had been a misrepresention of Vorst's medical history and performance record, and the horse had been presented as a highly competitive show jumper. Redman and Syquia denied making false representations about Vorst's condition or prior performance. They also denied any knowledge of a pre-existing propensity of Vorst to refuse to jump, and blamed such behavior on the present owner, trainers, and rider. The defendants pointed out that Zendejas had paid a fair price and had relied on his trusted agent, Nizri. Moreover, Zendejas's son had twice test-ridden the horse, and a veterinarian retained by the Zendejas had provided the results of a pre-purchase examination. In addition, Zendejas had declined to take up Syquia on his offer to speak with Vorst's veterinarians. It was further noted that Zendejas did not look at Vorst's publicly available show records or any videos of Vorst in competition, which were readily available, nor did he speak with Vorst's prior owners.
Zendejas sought to recover the $250,000 purchase price for Vorst, plus $450,000 in compensatory damages, including costs of training, shipping, and care. He further sought attorneys' fees and punitive damages for alleged fraudulent misrepresentations and/or omissions of material facts.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants Redman and Syquia. Although the jury found the bill of sale did not meet Florida law, because it omitted statements concerning Syquia and Nizri, the jury nevertheless found that Zendejas suffered no actual damages as a result.
Kenneth A. Marra
Plaintiff filed a Rule 50(b) and Rule 59 motion for a new judgment and trial.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.