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Judge dismisses goat suit

December 07, 1998|By MARLO BARNHART

All parties agreed Thursday to dismiss the remaining issues of a lawsuit involving the seizure and sale of pet goats belonging to the late Jesse Shoemaker, a Clear Spring man who later died in a fire at his home in April 1997.

Last March, Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell ruled that Shoemaker was not the victim of an illegal or malicious act, when he thought he had to sell his pet goats for $100 in February 1997.

McDowell then granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the Washington County SPCA and Robert Boden, who bought the goats.

Thursday, the Shoemaker estate, the SPCA and Boden all came to court for a hearing to settle the last remaining issue - the value of the goats.

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Instead, all three parties had earlier agreed to close the book on the entire case, McDowell said.

Originally the lawsuit had sought $4,950 for the value of the 30 goats and punitive damages of $100,000 for "intentional, reckless and in deliberate disregard of a high probability that emotional distress would result."

But McDowell pointed out over and over in court in March that the only evidence of any kind of distress was a statement that Shoemaker once broke down in tears.

"A deal was consummated and $100 was offered for the goats," McDowell said in March, ruling it was purely Shoemaker's mistake that he believed the SPCA officers were law enforcement officers and that he had to sell the animals.

The lawsuit claimed Boden showed up at Jesse Shoemaker's home in February 1997 with SPCA agents. They gathered up the goats, which Shoemaker kept as pets, and took them away to be sold.

Shelly Moore, executive director of the SPCA, said the agency investigated nuisance complaints at the Jesse Shoemaker residence and gave him a list of conditions to improve. They included a lack of running water and no fence for the animals.

In his March ruling, McDowell said the appellate courts of Maryland have made it clear there must be actual malice, ill will or an effort to defraud for such an action as Shoemaker's lawsuit to proceed.

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