Depositions shed light on horse show lawsuit
Lawyer for ousted widow claims Devon Horse Show officials’ depositions help her case
DEVON >> A lawyer for a 62-year-old widow who is suing the Devon Horse Show after being ousted from her skybox, claims that depositions from the horse show president and board chairman support his client’s case.
Trish Hueber, of Penn Valley, paid $20,000 for the ongoing use of the 1B skybox in April 2012. She also paid $1,800 annually in maintenance fees to the horse show. However, this year after she responded to a letter that requested the maintenance fee, her check for the 2016 maintenance fee was returned and show officials told Hueber that she had violated rules and no longer had the use of the box, the suit said. Horse show officials also contended that the $20,000 she paid in 2012 was a charitable donation, rather than for the purchase of the skybox.
After Hueber’s lawyer, Cary McClain, sent a letter regarding the skybox requesting proof that there had not been an agreement or a tax return showing the charitable contribution, show officials also removed Hueber from her position as vice president of the Hospitality Committee, a committee that she had served on for 29 years. Although Common Pleas Judge Ronald Nagle issued an order on June 2 to permit Hueber to use the skybox for the remaining days of the horse show this year,
Show officials contended that the $20,000 she paid was a charitable donation, rather than for the purchase of the skybox.
the case remains pending and is due for an arbitration hearing on Dec. 2.
Horse show officials claim that Hueber broke rules by accepting money from other people to sit in her box, something McClain said is common practice. Meanwhile, horse show President Richard O’Donnell and Chairman Wayne Grafton both gave depositions in the matter in September.
In his deposition, O’Donnell said that he and Grafton decided to remove Hueber and that the issue never came before the horse show board, McClain said. O’Donnell said that he learned about allegations that Hueber was allegedly selling tickets to her box through Grafton and called her to warn her against that activity in 2015. O’Donnell also confirmed that boxes are sometimes handed down from generation to generation, McClain said.
In his deposition Grafton said that there were issues with Hueber other than seeking reimbursement for seats in her box. He said that he was twice approached by an acquaintance regarding Hueber. That man and his wife first complained about an increase in the annual box fee since O’Donnell and Grafton took the reins of the horse show in December 2014. However, Grafton checked into their complaint and found that they did not have a box. When he called him about it, he learned that the couple was paying Hueber to sit in her box. O’Donnell then called Hueber and warned her that there were rules against scalping unused seats. Those tickets are supposed to be donated back to the horse show, under the rules.
Later, at the Palm Beach Polo & Country Club, that acquaintance again spoke to Grafton telling him that he had a chance to buy Hueber’s box for $25,000, according to McClain. Grafton told the man that Hueber did not own the box and suggested that he ask her to show him her deed, McClain said.
However, a horse show document mentions “ownership of the boxes,” McClain said. And a horse show employee took a message from Hueber and referred to her as a “skybox owner” but later crossed it out and wrote in “tenant.” She had called to request to exchange the skybox to a box that was lower in the stands.
And Grafton admitted that people commonly say “my box” when referring to a box at the horse show that they lease, just like people refer to cars that they lease as their car, said McClain.
In his deposition, Grafton said that he has the right to remove people that he deems disruptive from their boxes, according to McClain. He said that Hueber was insistent about the idea that she owned the skybox and gave “fraudulent information” to others. McClain said that the new leadership of the horse show wanted to resell the skybox Hueber paid $20,000 for in 2012 and that Grafton said in his deposition that he’s had offers of $50,000 for the use of a horse show box.
In her own deposition, Hueber agreed that she had “regulars,” who sat in her box and reimbursed her for her costs. However, she was never paid more than $30 or face value for a ticket and never scalped tickets, said McClain.
“Her friends contributed voluntarily,” he said. Also, Hueber said that she was approached about selling her box and checked with horse show officials about it.
“They said ‘no,’ so she didn’t,” said McClain. “They had no good reason to throw her out. The only reason is they want to make more money off the box. If they don’t like you, they’re going to make your life miserable at Devon and you will either leave or they will remove you.”
Hueber had volunteered with the horse show for some 30 years and she is “a person who has done nothing but support Devon all these years,” McClain said.
Mary-Ellen Allen, the lawyer for the horse show, did not return a call asking for comment.