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Bailey v. West

Supreme Court of Rhode Island
249 A.2d 414 (R.I. 1969)


Facts

On April 27, 1962, West (defendant) purchased a race horse named “Bascom’s Folly” from Dr. Strauss. Upon delivery of the horse to West, West’s trainer discovered the horse was lame and unsuitable for racing. The trainer informed West, who told him to ship the horse back to Dr. Strauss in a van. Dr. Strauss refused to accept delivery of the returned horse. The van’s driver called West’s trainer who told him to dispose of the horse, as West would not keep it. Upon instruction from Dr. Strauss’s trainer, the driver then brought the horse to a farm owned by Bailey (plaintiff). At the time of delivery, Bailey was unaware of who owned the horse. The horse remained and was cared for at Bailey’s farm from May 3, 1962 through July 3, 1966, when it was sold by Bailey. During this time, Bailey sent monthly bills to both Dr. Strauss and West for the expense of feeding and boarding the horse. After receiving the first bill, West returned it to Bailey, stating that since he received a lame horse from Dr. Strauss, he was not its owner and would not pay for the horse’s care. In Strauss v. West, 216 A.2d 366 (1966), however, the Rhode Island Supreme Court held the horse was “sound” upon delivery to West and West was liable to Dr. Strauss for the purchase price. Bailey brought suit against West in Rhode Island Superior Court to recover the value of his services provided in feeding, caring for, and maintaining the horse at his farm. Relying on the determination in Strauss v. West that West owned the horse, the trial judge held there was a contract “implied in fact” between West and Bailey to board the horse, and that even if such a contract did not exist, West was liable to Bailey under a quasi-contract. The trial judge granted Bailey five months of pay for his services. Both West and Bailey appealed.

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Holding and Reasoning (Paolino, J.)

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