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Jury begins deliberations in dog-shooting civil suit

May 05, 2010|By DON AINES

HAGERSTOWN -- After a week of testimony, a jury began deliberations Wednesday in Washington County Circuit Court in the trial of a Williamsport man sued by neighbors for intentional infliction of emotional distress and nuisance claims.

D. Bruce Poole, representing plaintiffs Eric and Mary Haberkorn, Arthur and Sonja Pereschuk, and James and Renee Rudolph, told the jury his clients were seeking $175,000 in compensation from Jeffrey Lynn Hurd for the intentional infliction of emotional distress and $110,000 for the loss of use and enjoyment of their properties.

If the jury finds Hurd acted "not by accident, but with malice," Poole told them they would then be asked to consider awarding the plaintiffs punitive damages.

"You've been called away from your daily lives because two dogs have been shot," Hurd's attorney, William Wantz, told the jury, referring to Hurd's shooting of the Pereschuks' dog, Bristol, in 2007, and the Rudolphs' dog, Harley, in 2008.

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The case is about more than the lives of the dogs, said Poole, noting his clients' claims that Hurd made death threats, threatening and obscene gestures, used profanity and patrolled his property lines armed with a rifle.

Hurd was convicted last year of criminal charges in the shootings, but the conviction for shooting Bristol was overturned earlier this year by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.

Wantz said the dogs were "at risk" because their owners failed to keep them leashed and they went onto Hurd's land. Hurd was within his rights, under Maryland law, to shoot Bristol for chasing a deer, Wantz said.

"He protected the deer from a predator," Wantz said.

Hurd was operating under the same belief when he shot Harley, who he saw chasing a turkey, Wantz said.

"Everyone is entitled to a measure of respect," Poole said of his clients. He described Hurd as "a person who does what he wants when he wants" and has never shown remorse for his actions.

The Haberkorns, Arthur Pereschuk and Renee Rudolph all suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Hurd's actions, Poole said.

Arthur Pereschuk suffers from depression as the result of Bristol's shooting and his other encounters with Hurd, while Hurd's actions aggravated existing psychological issues for Renee Rudolph, Poole said. The stress has affected the Haberkorns' marriage and harmed Eric Haberkorn's work performance, he said.

Arthur Pereschuk still works part time, goes on trips, golfs, plays slot machines and otherwise carries on his daily affairs and necessary matters, Wantz said. Renee Rudolph did not seek counseling until this year, while Eric Haberkorn continues to work and "orchestrated" efforts to curtail Hurd's shale mining business, Wantz said.

Nuisance claims by the plaintiffs such as gunfire, Hurd walking his property armed, dust from dump truck traffic and large brush piles were either normal activities in rural areas, occurred years ago or happened infrequently, Wantz said.

The jury resumes deliberations this morning.

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