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Dispute over horses goes down to the wire

The plaintiffs in a million-dollar lawsuit involving show jumping horses attempted to serve the defendants for the first time April 24, a few days after filing their federal lawsuit. They were unsuccessful and tried the next day. And the day after that. And most of the month of May.

In August, Christopher and Margot Meredith asked a federal judge to give them until Dec. 1 to serve Raylyn Farms Inc. and owners Ray and Lynne Little — their son’s in-laws.

“The Plaintiffs have been advised that the Defendants are currently in Europe and will not return until this fall, either in late September or October, when the Defendants plan on showing their horse in the United States again,” the motion states.

As of Dec. 1, however, the defendants still had not been served. So Judge Catherine C. Blake last week gave the Merediths until Dec. 19 to show why their complaint should not be dismissed without prejudice.

Mark A. Binstock, the Merediths’ lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment. Binstock is a principal with Paley Rothman in Bethesda.

Calls to Raylyn Farms and the Littles were not returned. The Frederick farm’s website says the Littles have been “recognized as pioneers in the U.S./Europe equine importation industry” and are credited with “selecting, developing and competing” some of the country’s most famous show jumping horses.

The lawsuit alleges Raylyn Farms brokered a deal for the Merediths in 2010 to purchase a horse, S. Rubertha, for $185,000, when the farm’s actual purchase price of the horse was $100,000 less, among other charges.

The Merediths, who live in Australia, met the Littles in 2007 through their children, according to the lawsuit. Benjamin Meredith, who has dual Australian-American citizenship, came to the United States to pursue a career in horse show jumping as a rider, trainer and breeder, according to the lawsuit. He began working at Raylyn Farms in 2006 with the understanding the Littles would teach him the business and promote him in the industry, according to the lawsuit.

In 2008, the younger Meredith married the Littles’ daughter, Marilyn, a champion horse show jumper, according to the lawsuit. The couple separated in September 2012.

After the Merediths told the Littles that S. Rubertha “was not capable of performing at the level that would be expected for a horse valued at” $185,000, the Littles said they would purchase another horse and register it in the younger Meredith’s name, the lawsuit states. But the Littles did not pay with their own money, instead using the Merediths’ money left over from the deal for S. Rubertha, the lawsuit states.

“In some instances, the Defendants did not truthfully disclose the true cost of the horses purchased on behalf of the Plaintiffs or all the material financial circumstances of such horse sales,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, fraudulent concealment, negligent representation, negligence, breach of contract, fraud and tortious interference.