This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







Michael J. Ziegler, Sr.,





Leon Matthias,




Filed April 16, 2002

Klaphake, Judge



Sherburne County District Court

File No. CX011349



Douglas G. Sauter, Malcolm P. Terry, Barna, Guzy & Steffen Ltd., 200 Coon Rapids Boulevard, 400 Northtown Financial Plaza, Minneapolis, MN  55433 (for appellant)


Michael H. Streater, Kathleen S. Adams, Bryant D. Tchida, Briggs and Morgan, P.A., 2200 First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Poritsky, Judge.*


U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Michael Ziegler, Sr., brought this action against respondent Leon Matthias alleging respondent committed fraud when he sold appellant a lame horse.  The district court granted summary judgment to respondent, concluding that appellant failed to establish through a competent expert witness the onset lameness in the horse.  Because appellant failed to adequately establish the credentials of his expert witness, we affirm. 


            The district court concluded that appellant did not meet his burden of establishing causation or the onset of the horse’s lameness.  Appellant argues that the district court erred in determining that his expert, Val Vetos, was not competent to render an expert opinion.  “[E]videntiary rulings, including a decision to exclude expert testimony, lie within the sound discretion of the [district] court.”  Benson v. N. Gopher Enters., Inc., 455 N.W.2d 444, 445 (Minn. 1990) (citations omitted). 

            Under Minn. R. Evid. 702, expert testimony is admissible when the witness is “qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education.”  A “lower standard of qualification [is applied] to witnesses giving opinion testimony [regarding diseases of animals] than is generally applied to expert witnesses offering testimony as to the diseases and ailments of humans.”  See Kastner v. Wermerskirschen, 295 Minn. 391, 394-95, 205 N.W.2d 336, 338-39 (1973).

            Appellant submitted an affidavit from Vetos, who is his horse trainer.  Vetos states that she has been a professional horse trainer for 30 years and an equine judge for 18 years.  She further asserts that “[a]mong the requirements for licensure [as an equine judge], is the certified ability to be able to distinguish whether or not a horse is traveling in a correct beat or if it is lame.” 

            Vetos’s affidavit, however, contains conclusory statements regarding her ability to detect equine lameness and lacks specific examples or supporting documentation confirming the requirements of licensure.  While a witness may qualify as an expert on the basis of knowledge gained through occupational experience, the affidavit submitted here is too bare in its representations to qualify Vetos as an expert in the causation and onset of lameness.  See Kastner, 295 Minn. at 395, 205 N.W.2d at 339. 

            We therefore conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that appellant failed to show that his proffered expert witness was sufficiently qualified in her ability to determine equine lameness.  Because appellant failed to establish an essential element of his claim, the onset of equine lameness, summary judgment was properly granted.  Lloyd v. In Home Health, Inc., 523 N.W.2d 2, 3 (Minn. App. 1994) (summary judgment mandatory against party who has burden of proof and who fails to establish essential element of claim). 


* Retired judge of the district court, serving as judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.