A prepurchase examination is an important step for anyone who is about to buy a horse. But what happens if a veterinarian passes a horse during the examination and it later displays signs of a clinical condition which was undetected?

At the Equine Veterinarians Australia Bain Fallon conference held in July, equine veterinarian Bruce Bladon, BVM&S, Cert EP, DESTS, Dipl. ECVS, MRCVS, from Donnington Grove Veterinary Group, in The United Kingdom, shed some light on this issue and what a purchaser and veterinarian need to be aware of when a prepurchase examination is conducted.

“I have been employed as an expert witness by the leading insurers for professional negligence claims in the U.K.,” he said. “Although the details in each case are always unique, the story is the same and it’s unfortunately one I’ve seen all too often. A veterinarian completes a prepurchase examination for an individual interested in purchasing a horse for competition purposes. The horse ‘passes’ the examination but later develops a clinical condition that affects its performance. The purchaser tries to put through a claim with their insurer but when it fails, they then decide to sue the veterinarian who conducted the examination.

“It’s one of, if not the most, stressful experiences a veterinarian could ever face,” Bladon said.

When it comes to prepurchase examinations, the veterinarian’s job is neither to pass nor fail a horse. Rather, it’s to provide the purchaser with information about existing medical problems and explain the possibility of future ones—especially in light of the horse&