With new legislation regarding the sale and transfer of horses in the State of California taking effect, horse owners and potential horse owners need to know the laws and make sure they comply with the proper disclosures and paperwork in all cases. This new legislation brings to mind the Tom Selleck civil case against a Del Mar equestrian in 2009.
On Tuesday, August 25, 2009, Tom Selleck appeared in a Vista, California courtroom as the first witness called in a jury trial to decide whether he and his family were wronged by the sellers of a 10-year-old competition horse purchased for $120,000 in 2006.
In the civil trial's opening statements, Selleck's attorney accused Del Mar businesswoman and equestrian, Dolores Cuenca, of trying to pass off a show horse, "Zorro," with a career-ending medical condition as suitable for Selleck's daughter to ride in high-level amateur competitions.
Within weeks of purchasing the horse, the Sellecks discovered that Zorro was lame. Their attorney, George Knopfler, told the jury that the seller knew Zorro suffered from lameness in the years she owned him.
Knopfler said Cuenca and her trainers spent a few years showing the horse to make it attractive for sale. He also charged that steroid injections to make the horse appear healthier were part of the cover-up of the horse's true condition.
The jury found that Selleck had been duped into buying a lame horse and awarded him over $187,000 to compensate for the purchase price, and the veterinarian and boarding bills for the horse.
Later, on October 19, 2009, Selleck was awarded an additional $75,000 in punitive damages against Cuenca.