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Buying Horses Abroad
When buying a horse from abroad goes wrong – How do you sue?
Buying your new stock of showjumpers or dressage horses from the continent to produce and sell can be a great idea and there are certainly some excellent and highly reputable breeders and dealers around. However, if things do go wrong, how do you go about getting your money back? Which country’s court has jurisdiction over the claim and which system of law should be applied? Even assuming you can bring a claim in England, can you enforce the English judgment abroad?
Do you have to sue abroad?
In a dispute over a sale of a horse to a consumer, (i.e. a business seller to a buyer purchasing other than in the course of a business) if the contract was concluded in a European Country a person may sue in their own European Country.
If the buyer is not a consumer, unless the contract specifies that the English courts will have jurisdiction they can only sue someone in the jurisdiction in which the seller is domiciled. This may be very unattractive for all sorts of reasons – not least the cost of employing foreign lawyers and travelling to court hearings abroad.
Even if you sue in foreign courts, UK laws may still apply
Even if your claim requires issuing in foreign courts, the governing law of the contract may still be English law. In the absence of a term in the agreement, the laws of the country to which it is most closely connected will govern the contract.
The country to which the contract is most closely connected will often be the one in which you took delivery of the horse – but in some cases may be the country in which payment was due. This may be a problem if the payment was sent abroad and so you should wherever possible arrange to make payment within this jurisdiction, for example to an English bank account.
You may prefer to avoid this particular scenario by agreeing in the contract itself that English law will apply to any dispute.
Enforcing a Judgment abroad
Getting your judgement is one thing – but it will be of little use unless you can enforce it. Happily, judgments obtained in one EU country can usually be enforced in another without needing to prove your case all over again. However, be warned that the effectiveness and speed of enforcement mechanisms vary hugely.
… SO …
The golden rule is always to ask the seller to agree (preferably in writing so you can prove it later) that your purchase will proceed under English law and that the English courts will have jurisdiction to hear any claim.
For more information on this matter, please get in contact with a member of the Tozers equine team on 01392 207020.