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Lane-Lott v. White

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 3, 2013

Laura LANE-LOTT, Appellant
v.
Harold WHITE and Anne Borgen White, Appellees.

Alexander Ignatiev, attorney for appellant.

G. Gerald Cruthird, Picayune, Peggy Hirschey-Williams, attorneys for appellees.

EN BANC.

MAXWELL, J.

¶ 1. This appeal involves the mysterious disappearance and mistaken identity of a horse. Claiming she had not received the pregnant quarter horse she had bargained for, Laura Lane-Lott sued the man with whom she had traded her horse, as well as the two people who brokered the trade.

¶ 2. The circuit court dismissed her claims for fraud and damages under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) at the close of her presentation of the evidence. After review, we find the circuit court reached the right result, but for a slightly different reason than cited by the judge.

¶ 3. The circuit court found there had been a " mutual mistake" between the parties, which could have led to reformation of the trade agreement. But because reformation was impossible due to the uncooperativeness of Laura and the sale, loss, or destruction of the horses involved, Laura was not entitled to any remedy for the mistake. The circuit court also found she failed to prove any fraud.

¶ 4. We agree there had been a mutual mistake. But the mistake was not in the drafting of the contract, justifying the remedy of contract reformation. Rather, the mistake was a mutual mistake of fact concerning the identity and existence of the subject matter of the contract— the pregnant quarter horse. And when this type of mistake occurs, under both the common law and UCC, the contract is void. While Laura may have been entitled

Page 1017

to be put back in the same place she was before the trade— an offer she refused— she was not entitled to any monetary damages. Because we also agree she failed to present a prima facie case of fraud, we affirm the judgment dismissing her claims against all three defendants.

Background Facts and Procedural History

¶ 5. Harold White and Anne Borgan White brokered a horse-trading deal between Laura and Gerald Gambrel. In the trade, Laura would swap her quarter-horse mare, Ima Slow Lopin Dream, in exchange for Gerald's pregnant mare, Kcees Time to Skeik.

¶ 6. But after the swap, and after the mare Laura received gave birth, Laura attempted to register the foal with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), only to learn that the foal did not have the bloodline Laura had desired. The foal's mother, or " dam," was not Kcees. Instead, DNA testing revealed that the mare who gave birth was in fact Miss Savannah Steel, a horse that had mysteriously disappeared from Harold's farm a year before Laura and Gerald's trade.

¶ 7. Apparently, Miss Savannah and Kcees were both being boarded at Harold and Anne's farm in 2007. When Gerald came to pick up Kcees, he mistakenly took Miss Savannah instead. But neither he nor Harold and Anne realized the mix-up. In fact, around this same time, Miss Savannah's owners came to claim her. [1] When she was nowhere to be found, and after diligently searching for her, Harold and Anne paid the owners $600 to compensate for their loss.

¶ 8. Later that year, Gerald returned the mare he thought was Kcees to Harold and Anne's farm in order to breed her. Knowing Laura wanted to sell her mare, Ima, Harold brokered the deal in which Laura would trade Ima in exchange for Kcees. Laura testified she accepted the offer because she was familiar with Kcees's bloodline, which in Laura's estimation made the horse valuable. When the exchange took place, the quarter horse everyone believed to be Kcees was pregnant. She delivered a foal the following spring. It was not until that fall, when Laura attempted to register the ...


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