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Feuding goat breeders butt heads in USDC

dmc-admin//January 5, 2011

Feuding goat breeders butt heads in USDC

dmc-admin//January 5, 2011

Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeding is serious business.

The cloven-hoofed creatures produce copious amounts of milk despite their size, make good house pets and fetch hundreds of dollars on the open market.

So when Keith and Marie Harrell, owners of the NC PromisedLand goat farm in North Carolina, felt that their reputation as dwarf goat breeders was being threatened by another pair of breeders, they decided to butt heads in U.S. District Court.

The Harrells allege in a complaint seeking $250,000 in damages that co-defendants and fellow goat breeders Rusty Repp of Georgia and Deena Sansone of Michigan were bad mouthing them and their goat herd.

They said Repp and Sansone had spread false rumors at goat shows in Michigan and South Carolina that the goats from the Harrell herd were “cross bred and disease ridden.”

And that wasn’t all.

They also accused Todd Biddle, who was later dropped from the suit, of telling fellow Nigerian Dwarf Goat exhibitors that Keith Harrell was a drag queen.

The Harrells argued that they “and their animals will be forever tainted within the goat industry” as a result of the mud-slinging.

“I almost fell out of my chair when I read the complaint,” says Sansone’s Boston attorney, Christopher M. Pardo of Constangy, Brooks & Smith. “It’s a unique fact pattern for us.”

When the Dallas-based firm of Kane, Russell, Coleman & Logan asked Pardo and his colleague Ellen C. Kearns to serve as Sansone’s local counsel, the attorneys and an office manager at the firm who saw the complaint thought it was a practical joke.

“The office manager called me back and asked if I was pulling her leg,” Pardo says.

But Judge Michael A. Ponsor wasn’t laughing.

Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, Ponsor granted Sansone’s motion to dismiss the complaints against her on the grounds of improper venue and a lack of personal jurisdiction. The judge called the out-of-state plaintiffs’ decision to file the complaint in the commonwealth “puzzling.”

“Here, none of the parties lives in Massachusetts,” Ponsor said, “and under no reading of the complaint could the court conceivably find that a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in Massachusetts.” 

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Michele L. Anderson of Anderson Byrne in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., did not return messages seeking comment.

The case will proceed against Repp unless he follows Sansone’s lead and files a motion to dismiss, Ponsor said.

Messages left with Repp’s attorney, Andrew C. Gately of Newton, Mass., were not returned.



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