HAT Trial Team Jacob Malatesta and Katie Castle Obtain Favorable Jury Verdict

On May 13, 2022, the trial team of Jacob Malatesta and Katie Castle obtained a favorable jury verdict of $190,000 for their clients, a couple from Georgia who had been sold a high-performance barrel racing horse. Before purchasing, the buyers were told that the horse had a benign polyp in the nasal cavity, which only needed to be cauterized to resolve the issue. The sellers offered to provide a report from LSU veterinary clinic showing that this was the case, but the sellers never actually provided the report. The buyers obtained a pre-purchase exam from a local veterinarian, who they thought was unaffiliated with the horse and the seller. The local veterinarian provided a pre-purchase report over the phone. He indicated he saw what the sellers were talking about and sent an X-ray to the buyers’ local vet.

The horse was purchased and transported to Georgia, where it was discovered that the horse had a number of lesions, not only in its nasal cavity but in its airway, caused by a rare genetic disorder called amyloidosis. The seller refused to rescind the contract. It was later found that the veterinarian who performed the pre-purchase examination had treated the horse for the sellers prior to the sale, found the lesions, and was listed as the referring veterinarian at LSU where a biopsy had found the amyloidosis. An email of the LSU report had even been sent to the veterinarian months before the sale.

The veterinarian did not produce a copy of a written report from the pre-purchase examination until after a notice of claim had been sent, asserting he did not provide the report because it had not been specifically requested. The seller claimed he did not understand the diagnosis and that LSU had indicated it was harmless. The vet claimed he did not know he had received an email, which contained the endoscopy report from LSU. The vet later admitted at trial he had been told about the LSU diagnosis from the seller. The veterinarian denied he had a duty to disclose his relationship to the seller or the horse, despite testimony from his own expert who stated the contrary.

The seller settled before trial, and the equine case went to trial solely against the veterinarian. After two days of testimony, the jury returned a verdict in forty five minutes. Our team at HAT is proud of Jacob and Katie’s hard work!