Judge Orders the AQHA to Pay Cloning Legal Fees

On Monday, Aug. 19, U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson signed an order granting the plaintiffs’ application for attorneys’ fees totaling nearly $900,000 in the ongoing cloning lawsuit against the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

Rancher Jason Abraham of Canadian and Amarillo veterinarian Gregg Veneklasen sued the 280,000-member organization last year, seeking to overturn a rule that bars cloned horses from the AQHA registry.

The AQHA had asked Robinson not to award attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs or to slash the fees, arguments the judge rejected in a four-page order.

“At trial, plaintiffs presented evidence clearly demonstrating that the AQHA’s exclusion of clones made those horses virtually worthless, in turn harming plaintiffs and the market,” stated the Aug. 19 order that the judge signed. It adds, “That the jury did not grant actual recovery of compensatory damages is irrelevant to the recoverability of attorneys’ fees. The jury found that the defendant violated all four antitrust laws and that the defendant damaged each plaintiff. Plaintiffs are entitled to attorneys’ fees.”

Robinson ordered the AQHA to pay a total of $891,387 – $346,500 to Abraham & Veneklasen Joint Venture; $267.862 to Abraham Equine, Inc.; and $277,025 to Jason Abraham.

Robinson has told attorneys from both sides she will issue an order requiring the AQHA to register clones, but the parties are still sparring over legal language in what will become the final order. The AQHA has already stated it plans to appeal any order from Robinson directing the association to register clones. If the AQHA appeals, the next destination for the case would probably be the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, La.

The AQHA has also asked the court to allow it discretion in adopting its own registration rules. Judge Robinson has indicated she might sign an eight-page order that goes into extensive detail while describing its proposed new AQHA registration rules.

“We are pleased with the court’s order on the attorney fees, and anxiously awaiting the final court order that would include the terms of the injunction,” said Nancy Stone, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. “I expect the court will enter an order soon.”