Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Animal / Dog Law
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Jeffrey was at home in York County, Pennsylvania with his daughter, young grandson, and their pet dog, Ace, a seven-year-old Rottweiler/Labrador Retriever mix. Jeffrey opened the door to let Ace outside, unaware that Trooper Corrie and other officers were swarming his property to serve an arrest warrant on an armed robbery suspect believed to be living there. Corrie heard Trooper Drum yell “whoa” several times, prompting Corrie “to turn around.” He saw a large dog coming toward him, “already mid-leap, within an arm’s reach.” Ace “was showing teeth, and growling in an aggressive manner.” Corrie says he “backpedaled to create distance,” and Ace circled around him, “attempt[ing] to attack.” Corrie “believe[s] there was another snarl,” and he fired a shot. Ace “began to come after [him] again.” Corrie fired a second shot and then a third. The dog yelped, ran to Jeffrey, and died within minutes. Trooper Drum stated that Ace had behaved aggressively. The family did not witness the incident.The family sued Corrie, claiming unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Third Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Corrie. The use of deadly force against a household pet is reasonable if the pet poses an imminent threat to the officer’s safety, viewed from the perspective of an objectively reasonable officer. Unrebutted testimony established that Act aggressively charged at Corrie, growled, and showed his teeth, as though about to attack. View "Bletz v. Corrie" 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