'If you don't buy my foal I'll sue you!' The story of a possibly fake sale transaction.

*See Photo Description Below

I've noticed a number of you horse bloggers are welcoming new foals to your homes and farms!  Congratulations!  Four years ago this month our latest 2 babies were born; funny we still call them babies!  Though bred for polo, Sophie is showing excellent potential to be a young adult hunter (the quarter-horse/Thoroughbred blood mixed wonderfully with an Argentine Criollo stud!)  The other filly has great athleticism, but may not be a "forever" member of our horse family like the first.  If we were ever to sell her, we will certainly have the contract in writing!  Have a look at this situation....

A horse breeder offered to sell a colt to his neighbor and subsequently received a note in which the neighbor agreed to pay the agreed upon purchase price for the colt.  The note was addressed to the horse breeder and contained the neighbor's alleged signature.  When the horse breeder attempted to set up transfer of the colt, the neighbor denied that she agreed to purchase it.
In a breach of contract action against the neighbor, the horse breeder offers into evidence the note.  The horse breeder testifies that he is familiar with the neighbor's handwriting and recognizes the signature on the note as being hers.

Assuming appropriate objection by the neighbor, who claims that she did not sign the note, what will the trial court do?  Will they admit or exclude introducing the note into evidence?

They will Admit the note!  However, the judge will also instruct the jury that it is up to them to decide whether the note is authentic.

This is done because of a very strict rule that before anything can be admitted into evidence, civil or criminal case, the item must be authenticated by proof showing that the item is what the proponent claims it is.  In this horse breeder example, because he says he is familiar with the neighbor's handwriting and that he recognizes the signature on the note to be that of the neighbor is sufficient to support a jury finding of genuineness- which is the necessary standard for admitting evidence.

Introducing anything into evidence can be simple once you know the rules, but also terribly difficult and complicated when there are multiple issues playing against each other.

Interestingly enough, I know a police officer who attempted to enter into evidence a blood alcohol report against a teenager who had been driving intoxicated, but the officer failed to lay a foundation for the report (which must be done when the piece of evidence is hearsay).  To lay a foundation the police officer needed to have had the person who created the report present to authenticate it, so the teenager ended up getting to go without penalty!

Lesson to be learned:
Always have your sales contracts in writing, preferably with legal representation for each party, and/or signed by a neutral witness!  
If you fear being the defendant in such an action, be sure to have a meticulous habit of crisp, clean, and legal documentation of every equine transaction to prevent attacks from false claimants.

{The photo is of my husband with Negrita,  Sophie's dam.  Negrita gave birth to her only foal later in life, around 20, and unfortunately is no longer with us.  But we are happy to have her live on through her great baby! }