Former Olympic champion Eric Lamaze faces horse sales lawsuit

Former Olympic champion Eric Lamaze faces horse sales lawsuit

  • Former Olympic champion showjumper Eric Lamaze is accused of “deceiving” owners of two horses in a lawsuit worth over $1.3m.

    The Canadian rider is the subject of the civil lawsuit against him and his companies in Palm Beach, Florida.

    Lorna Guthrie and Jeffrey Brandmaier took action relating to horses Newberry Balia NL and Nikka VD Bisschop. The complaint states that the plaintiffs have a long history with Eric, and that the action is based on a scheme to “induce plaintiffs to transfer large sums of money to defendants, purportedly for the purchase of horses for investment purposes”, to “deceive plaintiffs regarding the purchase” of the horses, to “betray” plaintiffs regarding their sale and “withhold the proceeds of sale”.

    The complaint states that in 2020, Eric offered the plaintiffs the chance to invest in Newberry, by paying $326,452.50 for 100% ownership. It claims that the aim was for Eric and his staff to train and compete the horse to “elevate her profile and value”, at which point she would be sold for a profit. The plaintiffs would cover all her costs and receive all profit from her sale, the complaint states.

    The plaintiffs’ case is that they paid but learned one of Eric’s companies was invoiced €190,000. They claim he “falsely and deceptively inflated the price – and therefore made a wrongful profit of $103,343.06”.

    Newberry won two classes at Aachen in September 2020, after which it was agreed a buyer should be found, the case states, but after 20 months, the defendants “failed” to do so. “This is no doubt linked to the fact that Newberry was retired from two classes due to crashes in the last three classes under Mr Lamaze’s care and arrived back in the United States with an injury”, the lawsuit states.

    The complaint states that in or around September 2020, Eric proposed he and the plaintiffs invest in Nikka. The cost and profits would be split equally, it is alleged.

    The plaintiffs say they paid $278,000, but “soon learned that defendants had no intention of performing their end of the bargain”.

    The complaint claims that the plaintiffs learned the defendants paid €375,000 for the horse. It states that Eric “convinced” the plaintiffs to sell their share for $525,000 and become joint partners in Eric’s share. It says Eric “took and retained” this money from the new buyers, but when the plaintiffs contacted him, “he… conceded he had already spent plaintiffs’ funds”.

    The plaintiffs say Eric sold another 45% share in Nikka to the buyers, for $2,270,000 and they received none of this. They say Eric paid them $170,000, but owes them $1,325,834.21.

    US lawyer Avery Chapman, principal of Equine Law Group and founding chair of the equine law committee of the Florida Bar, told H&H although he cannot comment specifically, and has no position, on this suit, the alleged issues raised are “unfortunately, significant yet common”. These include accusations of omitting to declare financial interests, and accurate disclosure, in buying and selling horses.

    State law requires financial interests to be disclosed accurately; Mr Chapman said of all the US states, Florida’s laws in this area are “the most aggressive and comprehensive”.

    “These are allegations and a complaint and anything can be written in a complaint; that doesn’t mean it’s true,” he said, adding that the accusations, if proven, might constitute unfair trade practices.

    “This looks like allegations of mis-statement of purchase price, so it’s a cleaner case,” he said. “It’s a serious lawsuit and will require legal counsel very knowledgeable in equine law.”

    Eric Lamaze did not want to comment at this time.

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