Rights of First Refusal: What You Need to Know

Find out why rights of first refusal can be difficult to enforce and how to ensure such rights are honored.
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At Equine Legal Solutions, we are frequently asked about rights of first refusal in horse sales.

These inquiries typically come from former owners who are upset because they weren’t notified before a horse was resold or otherwise transferred to a new owner. They want to know if they can get the horse back, but the answer is almost always no.

There are two main reasons why:

  • The right of first refusal wasn’t in writing. Often, the original horse sale was conducted without anything in writing. Other times, the buyer received a simple bill of sale that doesn’t include a right of first refusal. Either way, a verbal agreement will be very hard to enforce, particularly if there were no emails or other evidence supporting the existence of a right of first refusal.
  • The horse is already sold before the former owner finds out. In most states, when the horse has been sold to a third party who is unaware of the right of first refusal, the former owner has no legal case against the horse’s new owner and, therefore, no way to obtain possession of the horse. Instead, the former owner has a legal case for damages against the person who granted the former owner the right of first refusal

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Written by:

Rachel Kosmal McCart is the founder and principal attorney of Equine Legal Solutions, PC (ELS), an equine law firm based near Portland, Ore. McCart is a graduate of the Duke University School of Law and licensed to practice in four states: California, New York, Oregon, and Washington. She is also admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. ELS represents clients in litigation, helps resolve equine disputes, drafts customized equine contracts, represents clients in horse industry disciplinary hearings, and incorporates equine businesses. Learn more at www.equinelegalsolutions.com.

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