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Your puppy comes with a guarantee

By By Richard Alderman
May 25, 2013 at 12:25 a.m.


I purchased a new puppy. I was told it was a pedigree and in good health. As soon as I got it home, it became very ill. I brought it to the veterinarian, but after two days and $1,000 in expenses, the puppy died. The vet said that the dog was extremely ill the day I bought it. The seller refuses to help pay the vet bills or even give me my money back. What are my legal rights?

Under Texas law, you may have substantial legal rights. First, unless you bought the dog "as is," you get what is called a warranty of "merchantability." This is a warranty that the law implies in any contract for the sale of "goods." A dog is considered a "good," just like any other product you purchase. Under this warranty, any merchant who sells a product warrants that it is "fit for its ordinary purpose," and will "pass without objection in the trade." In my opinion, this basically means that you have a guarantee that the dog is healthy at the time of the sale. If you can show that the dog had the medical problem at the time you purchased it, my opinion is that the seller has breached the warranty of merchantability and should be liable for damages.

If there is a breach of warranty, you are entitled to all of the damages you suffered as a result of the breach. That would include the cost of the puppy, as well as your medical bills. You also would have a claim under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which entitles you to attorney's fees and up to three times your damage if the seller knew the puppy was sick when it was sold. This law also protects you if the seller makes any misrepresentation. You say that the seller told you the dog was in "good health," which was untrue. This misrepresentation violates the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and gives you an additional claim.

As I said, I believe you have substantial legal rights. I suggest you let the seller know you know your rights, and you expect your money back or a new puppy and that you expect to be compensated for some or all of your vet bills. If you cannot settle the matter, consider a claim in small claims court. You also may want to contact the Texas Consumer Complaint Center to see if we can assist you. You can file a claim at texasccc.com.

I just moved into a new apartment. When I asked the landlord if the door had a new lock, he told me it was the same lock the previous tenant had, but he was sure there were no outstanding keys. I told him I wanted a new lock, and he said I could change it but to give him a key. Am I entitled to a new lock?

Under the law, a tenant who moves into an apartment is entitled to have the lock changed or rekeyed as often as the tenant wants. The first time a lock is changed or rekeyed, the landlord must bear the cost of the change. After that, the landlord must make the change however, he has the right to charge the tenant for any costs incurred. Based on what you say, your landlord must change the lock or rekey it and cannot charge you. I suggest you speak with the landlord and let him know you expect him to do what the law requires.

One of my brothers has lived with our mother for about a year. He pays her a small amount each month to help with expenses. Things are not working out, and my mother wants him out. Can she just throw him out?

In my opinion, your brother has become a "tenant," and your mother is his "landlord." This means that she must give him proper notice to vacate and has no legal right to just throw him out. I suggest she give him 30 days written notice to leave. If he still does not leave, she can file a forcible entry and detainer action in justice court to have him evicted.

I am the executor of my mother's will. In the will, she left $7,000 to her grandchild. There is no money in her estate. Do I have to pay the $7,000?

No, you do not have to pay. The executor merely puts the will into effect and distributes the assets of the deceased. If there are no assets, the executor is not responsible for fulfilling the terms of the will.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a website at peopleslawyer.net.

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