A 10-person, Amarillo, Texas, federal court jury unanimously ruled today that the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) violated the rights of two horse owners by not letting them register their cloned horses.
At the same time, the jury did not award any financial damages to the two plaintiffs, Canadian, Texas rancher Jason Abraham and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen. The verdict also does not compel the AQHA to start allowing the registration of clones. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, though, said it opens the door for an upcoming ruling by the judge regarding whether the AQHA has to register clones and their offspring.
The court’s eventual decision regarding whether clones can be registered rests with U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson, the presiding officer in the U.S. Northern District of Texas case. At some point, Judge Robinson will ultimately determine the financial and the practical impact of the case.
“The typical order of things is the court will have a hearing on our request for injunctive relief, and, based on the favorable jury verdict on all of the liabilities, we believe the court will order the AQHA to register the horses,” said Amarillo attorney Nancy Stone, who represents Abraham and Veneklasen.
In a joint press release, the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated: “We are confident that the favorable jury verdict will result in the Court ordering AQHA to register the horses owned by Jason Abraham, Gregg Veneklasen, DVM and others and that the registration of these horses will further the mission of AQHA to maintain the integrity of the breed.” In a phone interview soon after the verdict, Stone and Sam Stein, attorney for Abraham Equine Inc., told Quarter Horse News they believe the jury’s unanimous decisions on five specific legal questions indicated jurors thought clones should be able to be registered.
Stone and Stein said they will ask the judge to compel the AQHA to start allowing registration of their clients’ cloned horses and also pay for at least a portion of their collective legal fees. It has not been determined at this point when that court hearing will take place.
• Did Defendant [AQHA] violate Section 1 of the Sherman Antitrust Act?
• Did Defendant violate Section 15.05(a) of the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act?
• Did the Defendant violate Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act?
• Did the Defendant violate Section 15.05(b) of the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act?
• Did Defendant’s actions cause damage to the Plaintiffs?
Jurors unanimously answered “0.00,” to the final question: “What sum of money, if paid now, in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate each Plaintiff for the damages, if any that Defendant caused in dollars and cents?”
The judge’s eventual ruling will also apparently determine financial impact of the case.
“We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of this trial,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway Jr. in a press release on aqha.com. “It continues to be our position that our rule prohibiting the registration of clones and their offspring is both reasonable and lawful.”
“We will meet with our legal counsel and executive committee regarding our appeal options in continuing to fight for our members’ rights and announce our decision in that regard in the near future” added AQHA President Johne Dobbs.
Read more at the Amarillo Globe-News.
Updates will be provided by Quarter Horse News as soon as they are available.