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Tom Selleck settles show horse lawsuit

DEL MAR — Actor Tom Selleck on Sept. 7 settled his family’s show horse case for a quarter of a million dollars.
Just before jurors were set to begin deliberating on punitive damages in the case, a $250,000 settlement proposed by the Sellecks was a agreed upon by the defendants.
The settlement includes the more than $187,000 awarded to Selleck and his wife, Jillie Mack-Selleck, after the jury determined the couple was duped when they purchased a competition horse with an undisclosed ailment.
Jurors found Del Mar equestrian Dolores Cuenca, agent Lynn Obligado and her husband, Guillermo Obligado, guilty of portraying Zorro, a 10-year-old show horse as fit for competition despite their knowledge that he suffered from lameness.
The Sellecks purchased Zorro in 2006 for $120,000 for their 20-year-old daughter, Hannah, to ride in amateur competitions. Currently, Zorro remains in the care of the Sellecks.
Attorney George Knopfler said he and the Sellecks believed the settlement represented a reasonable estimate of what the jury would have awarded in punitive damages.
Knopfler said the Sellecks’ motivation for going forward with the case was never about money. He said since the winning party can’t recover their attorney’s fees, people will often spend more than what they recover, which occurred in this lawsuit. For the Sellecks, this case was about vindication and changing the way business is handled in these horse transactions, Knopfler said.
“Unless people want to make a statement and say, ‘Hey you can’t do business this way,’ it’s going to continue,” Knopfler said.
Knopfler said he has evidence that the same three people, the Obligados and Cuenca, had committed a similar fraud several months before the Sellecks bought Zorro. Knopfler said his claim is based on information he obtained from medical records and interviews with the veterinarian and buyer in that transaction.
If the jury would have deliberated on punitive damages, Knopfler said he would’ve presented the evidence to the panel, since he was barred from introducing the information during the first phase of the trial due to its prejudicial nature.
However, attorney Robert Scapa refuted Knopfler’s claim. Scapa said the transaction was valid, and in fact the buyer was pleased with the horse. He added that no lawsuit was ever filed.
Scapa also said he believes fault could fall on many of the people involved in the case, including the Sellecks, who he said didn’t talk to the veterinarian, nor did they look at the pre-purchase vetting form until more than two months after they bought Zorro.
“I think it’s a wake-up call for everybody that we need to be a little more diligent,” Scapa said.

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