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June 7, 2013

Griffith And Heritage Farm Face Pony Sale Lawsuit

Prominent trainer Patricia Griffith, Heritage Farm and veterinarian Christopher “Kit” Miller are being sued in New York Supreme Court for allegedly misrepresenting the health and suitability of a pony purchased by Barbara Tichner in March of 2012.

Tichner said she purchased Sports Talk, a 6-year-old Welsh pony gelding (RosMel’s Dressed In Scarlet—RosMel’s Jazzy Jolene), for $175,000 as both an investment and a mount for her daughter, Francesca Dildabanian, to compete in the pony hunters. But the gelding turned up lame less than a year later, and she asserts that Griffith and Miller concealed a pre-existing unsoundness before the sale.

Tichner said Griffith, who was coaching Dildabanian last year, chose Miller to perform a pre-purchase exam, but Griffith’s lawyers assert that Tichner was the one who retained him. In any case, Tichner said after the exam she was given the green light by both parties to purchase the pony and therefore did so.

In November, 12-year-old Dildabanian stopped boarding and riding with the Heritage team. Four months later, this March, Tichner informed Griffith that her daughter’s pony showed signs of rotation in his coffin bones and was unfit to compete any longer.

“Of course they blamed it on my new trainer not being as good,” Tichner told the New York Daily News after filing suit in late April. “But once you saw the radiographs, the X-rays, we understood that clearly something was wrong.”

Tichner’s suit also claims that “sometime after the purchase” she learned that during Sports Talk’s time at Heritage, “he repeatedly suffered from sore feet and in fact had been blocked in order to compete in Pony Finals in early August 2012.”

The defendants have now countered with motions to dismiss the case. Miller’s lawyer, Charles X. Connick, did so on May 29, denying the allegations and his liability, and Griffith and Heritage’s representative, Peter A. Axelrod, followed suit swiftly. On June 3 he submitted a response that called the lawsuit “frivolous” and “simply intended to harass the defendants.”

Axelrod also argued that the suit is completely founded on the idea that Griffith and Heritage sold the pony and should be dismissed since sale documents prove Bibby Hill was the actual seller. (The original complaint lists Lane Change Farm as the seller, a complication which Axelrod deemed “puzzling and obscure.” Hill’s only connection is her daughter, Kelley Farmer, that farm’s leading rider.)

He said Tichner’s claims of both fraud and negligent misrepresentation lack the merit for a court battle, and that any representation Griffith may have made about Sports Talk’s future performance or value was nothing more than a guess.

“In New York, the alleged misrepresentations amount to nothing more than opinion and puffery, or unfulfilled promises of hope, and are not actionable as fraud,” Axelrod wrote.

Check back at chronofhorse.com for updates on the suit as it continues to unfold.

 
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