Sometimes, as lawyers, we take cases that aren’t necessarily in our wheelhouse. At Pottenger Law Firm, we specialize in personal injury cases, but occasionally a case is so interesting that we can’t pass it up. That is what happened when a $1 million equine mortality policy ended up on my desk. Having never dealt with any legal cases involving horses, it would be more work and research than a typical case, but my interest was sparked and there was a client who needed counsel.

Our client was heavily involved in raising and showing horses. She purchased a horse as a colt and trained it as a halter (show) horse. The horse ultimately became a grand world champion, and due to the cost of training, the prizes that the horse had won, and its potential of earning as a stud (a horse used for breeding), the owner decided to take out an equine mortality policy (life insurance for a horse) of $1 million. The horse continued to win competitions until it unfortunately passed away.

Even though the insurance company had taken our client’s premiums for years, when the horse died, they refused to pay out the claim, citing a genetic mutation in the horse. They claimed that if they had known the horse was afflicted with this genetic mutation, they never would have covered the horse.

Before this case, I knew nothing about horses. Being a trial lawyer, I decided to take the case, and I quickly learned about the history of halter horses. Halter horses are essentially the bodybuilders of the equine world. They’re meant to be shown, not ridden. I flew all over the country taking depositions of different people who had opinions about the value of the horse.

Both sides showed up to court with experts in horse appraisal. Like all appraisers, there are specific methodologies that horse appraisers are supposed to use to come to their conclusions. Upon taking the deposition of the expert for the insurance company, we learned that even though he was a certified horse appraiser, he had completely failed to follow the methodology that was prescribed and universally recognized and accepted within the industry. When pushed further, he denied violating the accepted methodology, even though it was clear that he had. In the last page of his report, the expert representing the insurance company stated that he came to his conclusion in accordance to industry standards, and since he hadn’t, his whole deposition was called into question. The case settled for a confidential amount shortly after his deposition.

If you’re currently dealing with an insurance company, and they’re refusing to pay out a legitimate claim, we can help. To discuss your case with us in more detail, contact us today for a free consultation by calling (816) 531-6006.