verdicts-and-settlements-article

Jester v. Hutt

$200,000 Verdict

Date of Verdict: Feb. 9.

Court and Case No.: U.S. District Court, M.D. Pa. No. 1:15-cv-00205-YK.

Judge: Yvette Kane.

Type of Action: Breach of Contract.

Injuries: Defamation.

Plaintiffs Counsel:  Mark D. Bradshaw, Stevens & Lee, Harrisburg.

Defense Counsel: Gordon A. Einhorn, Thomas, Thomas & Hafer, Harrisburg.

Comment:

In July 2012, plaintiff Michael Jester, of Penn Ridge Farms LLC, and Robert Hutt, of Fantasy Lane Thoroughbred Racing Stable LLC, entered into a contract by which Penn Ridge agreed to provide boarding and breeding services to Fantasy Lane’s thoroughbred stallion and broodmares at its farms, in Harrisburg.

Additionally, under the contract, Penn Ridge would act as Fantasy Lane’s agent for the promotion and management of its thoroughbred stallion, Uptowncharlybrown, and would exercise good faith in promoting, managing and selling Uptowncharlybrown’s stallion seasons.

Jester asserted that about a year into the contract, Fantasy Lane stopped paying the contractual monthly fee of approximately $11,000 to board and breed the company’s horses. Additionally, Hutt began to defame Penn Ridge through emails.

Jester and Penn Ridge sued Hutt, Fantasy Lane and its related entities, alleging breach of contract and defamation.

Plaintiffs counsel presented the monthly invoices that the defendants allegedly failed to pay. Counsel also presented multiple emails that Hutt had distributed to hundreds of individuals in the horse-breeding and racing industry in which Hutt allegedly criticized the quality of care that Fantasy Lane’s horses had been receiving at Penn Ridge. Penn Ridge, itself, had been on the contact list of the intended email recipients.

Hutt and Fantasy Lane denied the allegations and brought counterclaims of negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Counsel maintained that the plaintiffs did not fulfill their contractual obligations to promote and manage Uptowncharlybrown’s stallion seasons, and that they failed to exercise good faith in securing a successful breeding season for the horse.

According to the defense, numerous Fantasy Lane horses had been injured while stabled at Penn Ridge. Several of the horses contracted worms and Potomac Horse Fever, with one broodmare and her unborn foal both succumbing to the disease. Additionally, a foal suffered a broken leg while separated from its mother and had to be euthanized, the defense contended.

Plaintiffs counsel maintained that the Fantasy Lane horses were treated with the utmost care and their treatment was in accordance to the parties’ contract. Plaintiffs counsel noted that Potomac Horse Fever was a regionwide disease that was unpreventable and had infected Penn Ridge’s own horses. Moreover, foals separating from their mothers and suffering leg injuries is common at any horse farm, plaintiffs counsel noted.

The plaintiffs presented the unpaid invoices, which totaled approximately $65,000.

Fantasy Lane, in its counterclaim, suggested that the failure to promote Uptowncharlybrown cost the company millions.

The jury found in favor of Michael Jester and Penn Ridge Farms, awarding damages of $200,000. It also found in favor of the plaintiffs on the defendants’ counterclaims.

The trial lasted one week.

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to calls for comment.

—This report first appeared in VerdictSearch, an ALM publication