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Equine Litigation

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OVERVIEW

Stoll Keenon Ogden has been providing legal services worldwide in all facets of the equine industry for more than 75 years. With heavy involvement in the thoroughbred industry, our work also involves other breeds such as American Saddlebreds, Arabians, Morgans, Standardbreds and Quarter Horses. SKO also represents equine groups and individuals before the United States Equestrian Federation.

We are at the forefront of major equine litigation, arbitration and mediation from antitrust to collection matters involving familiarity with the detailed and specific rules applicable to agisters’ liens and stud fee liens.

SKO represents well-known race tracks, such as Keeneland, as well as owners, trainers and other equine persons and entities before administrative tribunals. We have also served as counsel to Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, at which the proceedings involved allocation of racing dates, license approvals and suspensions and general matters.

We counsel several large horse farms as secured creditors in bankruptcy proceedings and have represented other equine industry participants in bankruptcy matters. SKO also assists equine clients in collecting fees and other debts.

Benchmark Litigation Kentucky State Firm of the Year 2018

Work Highlights

Constitutional Law

Jerry Jamgotchian v. Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, et al., Civil Action No. 11-CI-01047 (Franklin Circuit Court)

SKO represented the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission in a dormant commerce clause challenge filed against it by a thoroughbred owner regarding an industry-standard regulation pertaining to the purchase of horses in claiming races. Steven argued the case before the Kentucky Supreme Court and the Court ruled in the Commission’s favor in a unanimous published opinion.

Rights of Nonprofit Members to Inspect Corporate Records

SKO represented certain members of a Kentucky nonprofit equine corporation in litigation against the nonprofit. When “significant deficiencies” were identified in the nonprofit’s $2 million annual budget, the organization refused to produce accounting records to the members who requested them. SKO obtained a summary judgment on behalf of its clients and defeated nonprofit’s motion for a stay of the judgment pending appeal. SKO also established that the nonprofit destroyed records, computer hard drives and backup servers during the pendency of the litigation. The Fayette Circuit Court held the nonprofit in contempt and ordered it to pay SKO’s fees. The nonprofit sought relief in the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Following the conclusion of the briefing by both parties, the nonprofit agreed to dismiss its appeals and to comply with the judgments entered in the Fayette Circuit Court action. This was a case of first impression in Kentucky. The Court held that, under Kentucky law, all Kentucky nonprofit corporations must allow their members to inspect and copy all of the corporation’s books and records.

USEF Administrative Proceeding

SKO represented four American Saddlebred horse show officials in an administrative hearing conducted by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), the United States' governing body for equestrian sports. In the hearing, the owner of a fallen horse filed multiple charges against the show’s officials when his horse died after becoming excited and striking its head as medical crew were attempting to assist an injured rider at the show. The horse owner alleged that show officials violated several safety rules that contributed to the death of the horse. If the owner prevailed, officials would face suspensions, fines and the potential for additional civil litigation. The USEF found in favor of SKO’s clients on all charges and acknowledged that while the incident was tragic, SKO’s clients acted appropriately and complied with all applicable rules.

Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claim

SKO represented a client in a federal action in California involving claims of fraud and civil conspiracy in connection with a multi-million dollar equine transaction.  SKO obtained a Rule 12 dismissal of the claims against its client, but the Court granted leave to amend.  After amendment of the claims by the Plaintiff, SKO was successful in obtaining another dismissal, with prejudice.

Enforcement of Prohibited Substance Regulations

SKO represented a horse racing commission in connection with proceedings imposing penalties against a Thoroughbred horse trainer and a veterinarian for the possession of prohibited substances, including cobra venom and Carbidopa/Levodopa, on the premises of a race track. The trainer was suspended one year for the cobra venom violation and served his suspension. The veterinarian was suspended for five years for the cobra venom and Carbidopa/Levodopa violations and appealed the suspension to the Franklin Circuit Court. The Franklin Circuit Court affirmed the four-year cobra venom suspension and reversed the one-year Carbidopa/Levodopa suspension. Both the veterinarian and the commission appealed the order to the Kentucky Court of Appeals which reversed the cobra venom suspension. 

Constitutional Challenge to Racing Regulation

SKO represents a horse racing commission defending a lawsuit in which the plaintiff is challenging the validity of a racing regulation that places conditions on the racing of horses claimed at Kentucky race tracks. The plaintiff argues that the regulation violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. After both parties filed motions for summary judgment, the Franklin Circuit Court granted the motion of the commission, denied the motion of the Plaintiff and upheld the validity of the commission’s regulation. The time to appeal has not expired.

INDUSTRY INVOLVEMENT

National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA)

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