Less than three weeks after trainer Mark Arballo was charged with felony animal cruelty in the Sept. 21, 2013, death of reining horse Bella Gunnabe Gifted, owner Martha Torkington filed a civil suit against Arballo in the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, Central Division.
A Complaint For Damages was filed on Sept. 26 by Brian Holm, Esq., and Natalie Holm, Esq., attorneys for plaintiffs Torkington and her River Valley Ranch LLC. The defendants are Arballo, Patrice Hohl and unidentified “Does 1 through 100, inclusive.” Hohl is believed to be Arballo’s girlfriend and was, at one time, listed on the Arballo Reining Horses website as a trainer. “Does 1 through 100, inclusive,” allow the plaintiffs to amend their complaint at a later date to include the names and capacities of other individuals who may have been involved.
The nine-page complaint contends that Arballo and Hohl’s alleged actions that ultimately killed “Bella” (Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner] x Bay Brim Hat x Hollywood Return) were negligent and intentional, and violate California Penal Code 597, which provides that “every person who maliciously and intentionally maims, mutilates, tortures, or wounds a living animal, or maliciously and intentionally kills an animal, is guilty of a crime punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).”
The complaint states that Torkington and River Valley Ranch have suffered damages, loss of profits and severe emotional distress. They are seeking “general damages in an amount that exceeds $25,000; special damages in an amount that exceeds $25,000, including but not limited to lost profits, veterinary expenses and damage to personal property; attorney’s fees; exemplary damages; and all relief the court deems necessary and proper.”
Arballo and Hohl have 30 days to file a written response at the court and have a copy served on the plaintiffs. A civil case management conference (CMC) has been scheduled for Feb. 27, 2015, at 11 a.m. If the case is not settled prior to that date and alternative dispute resolution, such as neutral evaluation, mediation or judicial arbitration, also fails to result in a settlement, a trial date will be set.
On Sept. 8, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office charged Arballo with felony animal cruelty over the 5-year-old mare’s death. On Oct. 2, Arballo pleaded not guilty. A readiness conference for that criminal case is set for Nov. 12 at 8:30 a.m. in San Diego, and a preliminary examination is set for Dec. 2 at 8:30 a.m.
Read more about Bella Gunnabe Gifted here: