Justia Animal / Dog Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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Greenbank purchased “Thomas” for $500,000, for use as a competitive showhorse. Greenbank obtained insurance from GA that included coverage for Thomas’s “death” or “authorized humane destruction.” In February 2018, Thomas became sick. Over the next few months, Thomas lost 50 pounds and developed cellulitis in all four legs and uveitis in his eye. In April 2018, Greenbank reported Thomas’s pneumonia to GA. Greenbank's veterinarian informed GA that Thomas “probably” needed to be euthanized. GA retained its own veterinarians. Thomas was transported to its facility, where Dr. MacGillivray advised that it would not be unreasonable to make a euthanasia recommendation but she wanted to try treatment. Greenbank objected, arguing that treatment would destroy Thomas’s future athleticism. After his surgery, Thomas made a "remarkable" recovery. Thomas is still doing well.GA denied coverage for certain treatments and rejected Greenbank’s renewal payment of $14,725.000, citing her failure to provide immediate notice of Thomas’s illness in February 2018. Greenbank argued that GA acted in bad faith by unreasonably withholding consent for authorized humane destruction and that GA’s continued care and control over Thomas after the policy terminated constituted conversion and theft.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claims. Thomas saw three veterinarians in five months; no veterinarian certified that Thomas needed to be euthanized. Nothing in the contract requires GA to protect Thomas’s use as a show horse. Greenbank never made an unqualified demand for Thomas’s return nor did she establish that any demand would have been futile. View "Greenbank v. Great American Assurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this case brought by a tenant against her landlord and a neighboring tenant alleging breach of the lease's no-pets provision the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing the case, holding that the landlord's accommodation of an emotional support dog was not reasonable.Plaintiff moved into an apartment building because of its no-pets policy. Afterwards, another tenant requested a reasonable accommodation to have his emotion support animal (ESA), a dog, with him on the apartment premises. The landlord allowed the ESA and tried to accommodate the two tenants, but Plaintiff still suffered from allergic attacks. Plaintiff sued, alleging breach of the lease and interference with the quiet enjoyment of her apartment. The landlord asserted in its defense that its waiver of the no-pets policy was a reasonable accommodation that it was required to grant under the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The small claims court concluded that the landlord's accommodations were reasonable. The district court dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding (1) the landlord's accommodation of the ESA was not reasonable because Plaintiff had priority in time and the dog's presence posed a direct threat to her health; and (2) Plaintiff was entitled to recover on her claims. View "Cohen v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Penn boarded Fantasy’s horses. After some of its horses became sick or injured and even died, Fantasy refused to pay boarding invoices totaling $65,707. Fantasy told Penn’s veterinarian, Edelson, that it was considering suing him; they entered into an agreement releasing “any and all persons, firms, or corporations liable or who might be liable . . . [from liability] arising out of or in any way relating to any injuries and damages of any and every kind . . . [in] the care and/or treatment of any [Fantasy] horses stabled at Penn.” Penn sued for breach of contract and defamation, based on emails sent to individuals in the industry blaming Penn for the deaths of Fantasy’s horses, calling the staff “inexperienced,” and accusing Penn of trying to conceal the problems. Fantasy counterclaimed, alleging negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The district court rejected the negligence counterclaims, based on the Edelson release. A jury awarded Penn $110,000 for breach of contract, $1 in nominal damages for defamation, and $89,999 in punitive damages. The court reduced the punitive damages to $5,500. The Third Circuit affirmed, except as to punitive damages. If the court finds, on remand, that the $89,999 award is unconstitutionally excessive, it should explain why it is not within the range of reasonable punitive damages for this claim and why a lower award reflects the reprehensibility of the conduct. View "Jester v. Hutt" on Justia Law

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Minnesota-based Everest breeds and races thoroughbreds. Crestwood is a thoroughbred farm in Kentucky. The businesses began working together in 1993. The parties entered a more definite arrangement in 2008, for sale of Everest’s horses. Everest would transfer ownership of more than 100 horses to Crestwood, which would pay the horses’ day-to-day costs and would sell the horses at a public auction or a private sale. The agreement prohibited Crestwood from setting a “reserve” on any horse, a price floor below which the sale would not go. Crestwood was to keep 25-50 percent of the proceeds from each sale. The agreement provided that Island Fashion and its unnamed filly would be sold at auction, but remained Everest’s property. Crestwood tried to sell several horses, including the Island Fashion filly. There were bids of $850,000 and $875,000 for the filly. Everest had planted a separate agent at the auction without Crestwood’s knowledge, who tried to drive the selling price higher by placing a $900,000 bid. The sale failed. After learning what Everest had done, Crestwood kept $219,513.89, 25 from selling other horses based on the failed high bid for the filly (plus auction fees). Everest sued and Crestwood counterclaimed. The district court granted summary judgment to Crestwood and awarded $272,486.30 in attorney’s fees. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "Nielsen v. McLean" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was injured while participating in a guided horseback ride near Sundance Resort. Prior to the ride, Plaintiff signed a release (waiver) waiving her right to sue Defendants, Sundance-related entities (collectively, Sundance) for injuries caused by Sundance's ordinary negligence. Plaintiff appealed, contending that the waiver was unenforceable under the Limitations on Liability for Equine and Livestock Activities Act (Equine Act) and that it violated the public policy expressed in the Equine Act. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Equine Act does not invalidate preinjury releases for ordinary negligence, nor does the Equine Act evidence a public policy bargain struck by the legislature; and (2) therefore, the waiver is enforceable. View "Penunuri v. Sundance Partners, Ltd. " on Justia Law