Business law (horse-breeding contract); KRE 406 habit or routine evidence: Curry v. Bennett (COA 4/24/2009)

Curry v. Bennett
2009 WL 1097959
Opinion by Judge Wine; Judges Dixon and Keller concurred.

The Court affirmed a judgment of the circuit court ordering appellant to specifically perform on a horse-breeding contract and awarding appellee damages for appellant’s breach of the contract. The Court first held that the trial court did not err by allowing evidence of customary practices in the American Saddlebred horse industry that a trainer acts as the agent for the horse owner. KRE 406 allows for evidence of habit or routine practice of an organization to prove the conduct of a person on a particular occasion was in conformity with the practice. The testimony at issue was relevant and admissible to show that appellee reasonably relied upon appellant’s trainer’s apparent authority to negotiate the agreement.

The Court next held that the trial court properly instructed the jury on the issue of agency and did not improperly shift the burden to appellant to prove that the trainer was not acting as his agent. First, the instruction substantially adopted the recommended instruction set out in prior caselaw. Moreover, since appellant admitted that he knew the trainer was negotiating with appellee, the only issue was whether appellee knew that the trainer lacked authority to negotiate.

The Court finally held that in order to show the diminished value of the colt, the trial court properly allowed testimony that had appellant not failed to provide the necessary paperwork for the colt, the colt would likely have won a weanling competition. The evidence was not unduly speculative in light of all of the evidence presented to establish the colt’s diminished value. Further, appellant had the opportunity to cross-examine all of the evidence.

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