Recently, we successfully defended a Michigan alpaca breeder, Maplewood Farm Alpacas & Llama, who allegedly sold a breeding-deficient male alpaca. The plaintiff, a Virginia purchaser, bought the alpaca, Diego Siempro (“Diego”), at a New Jersey auction in May of 2002 for $28,000. The plaintiff, claimed Diego suffered from testicular problems when sold, which made him unable to breed. The contract provided New Jersey as the venue for bringing suit.
Before the sale in May 2002, both parties signed a contract, which included a warranty that could be exercised in writing prior to Diego’s third birthday. The warranty provided that should a claim be made by the buyer, it was the seller’s prerogative to exchange a replacement alpaca, provide a credit toward the purchase of another alpaca, or refund the purchase price.
Evidence and testimony presented at trial showed no claim was made in writing prior to Diego’s third birthday. However, plaintiff contacted the defendant around the time that Diego turned three years and eight months and claimed Diego was sold unable to breed. The plaintiff based their claim on only a single, five-minute inspection by their veterinarian, who after measuring Diego’s testicles with seamstress’ tape, observed they were smaller than normal. The veterinarian concluded that Diego’s testicles were hypolastic. Further, the veterinarian stated that Diego suffered from a condition known as hypoplasia, which is a genetic defect that restricts an animals testicles ability to grow to normal size or allow for the breeding quality offspring.
Although, the three-year warranty expired, the defendant attempted to work with the plaintiff to determine the cause of Diego’s inability to breed. Diego was sent for testing at Ohio State University, the premier veterinary facility for alpaca reproductive issues where Diego was given a thorough examination.
Testimony and evidence presented by one of the defendant’s veterinarian experts, Dr. David Anderson, Head of Food Animal Medicine and Surgery in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University and Director of the International Camelid Institute, explained there was no data to support plaintiff’s claim that Diego was entirely deficient. Rather, Dr. Anderson explained that Diego’s problems were more congenital-looking in nature, caused possibly by disease, heat-stress (a common ailment among alpacas) or an insect bite. Additionally, Diego’s Michigan veterinarian testified that she inspected him twice prior to the May 2002 sale, during which he appeared normal. Upon learning of the Ohio State inspection, the defendant offered the plaintiff a replacement animal. The plaintiff rejected the request.
After a two-day trial, the court found that the warranty was not barred by the lateness of the claim. However, none of the veterinarians could determine the actual cause of the animal’s degenerative condition or when it occurred. Therefore, the warranty was to be enforced pursuant to its terms. As the defendant chose a like-kind exchange, offering to replace the animal with Diesel, which was refused, there was no breach of warranty. Further, the court found that there was no right to revoke acceptance of Diego under N.J.S.A. 12A:2-608, nor did plaintiff have the right to rescind the contract under the doctrine of mutual mistake ( i.e., Diego’s sexual prowess). Further, the court found no evidence of any fraudulent misrepresentation on the part of the defendant.
Tips for Breeders or Livestock Owners
Of great importance to any sale of alpacas, or other breeding animals or livestock, such as horses, llamas, or cows, is a warranty. An express warranty provides particular provisions for making a claim and obligations and duties to follow to exercise such claims. An implied warranty, although not explicit, can also be construed for parties. Further, even though a warranty may expire, particular actions by either side may permit the warranty to be extended. As such, it is advisable to know your legal rights and remedies as soon as possible. For a consultation on a contract or warranty claim that you may have as a breeder or seller of breeding animals or livestock, contact either myself or Timothy P. Duggan.
In its decision, the court denied the plaintiff’s claims for breach of warranty, recision of contract based on mutual mistake and fraudulent misrepresentation because there was no evidence to support a finding that Diego was incapable of breeding before his sale or proof of any fraud.