A horse named Justice filed a lawsuit against its owner after being neglected, but an Oregon judge threw out the case, saying horses cannot file lawsuits because they cannot assert “legal rights and duties in a court of law,” as reported by ABC News.
Washington County Circuit Court Judge John Knowles issued his ruling Sept. 18, 2018, saying that because the horse is a “non-human animal,” the $100,000 lawsuit will not be allowed to proceed.
This all started when Justice, formerly named Shadow, was put up for adoption by his owner Gwendolyn Vercher. She had told his new owners about his injuries and conditions, which included being 300 pounds underweight and having untreated penile frostbite after being left outside in the cold. Justice’s new caretakers had taken her to court, and she pleaded guilty to first-degree animal neglect in July 2017. As part of her guilty plea, she agreed to pay for Justice’s care.
The horse’s own lawsuit came about when Matthew Liebman, Justice's lawyer from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), caught wind of his story. Liebman says horses can sue people, particularly in Justice’s home state of Oregon. Animals can be victims of crime in their own right, as ruled by the Oregon Supreme Court in 2014. The additional $100,000 Vercher was to be charged with was to go into a trust and to be used for future veterinary care for Justice.
Part of the reason the court threw out the case was fear that other non-human court cases would pop up and “flood” the courts.
“There are profound implications of a judicial finding that a horse, or any non-human animal for that matter, is a legal entity that has the legal right to assert a claim in a court of law,” the court writes. “Such a finding would likely lead to a flood of lawsuits whereby non-human animals could assert claims we now reserve just for humans and human creations such as business and other entities.”
The ruling on Justice’s case states: “The court grants with prejudice defendant’s motion to dismiss based on a lack of standing for Justice the horse. The court finds that a non-human animal such as Justice lacks the legal status or qualifications necessary for the assertion of legal rights and duties in a court of law.”
The ALDF plans to appeal the judge’s ruling.
Lawsuits are a real threat not only for horse owners but farriers too. Read about how you can protect yourself here.