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Soules v. Bosse

Superior Court of Maine, Androscoggin

March 17, 2015

LISA BOSSE, Defendant



Before the court is Plaintiffs Jayne and Daniel Soules' Motion for Summary Judgment on Defendant Lisa Bosse's Second Amended Counterclaim ("Counterclaim"). The Counterclaim arose in response to Plaintiffs' Complaint against Defendant and the ensuing court dispute between the parties over a horse named Knotty. The court held a number of hearings with the parties regarding the proper way to proceed in regard to Knotty, imposed a preliminary injunction on December 5, 2013, and ultimately vacated that injunction on January 14, 2014. Knotty has since died[1], but the Counterclaim remains. Defendant's Counterclaim asserts four counts: Count I is for slander, libel and/or defamation; Count II is for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress; Count III is for unjust enrichment; and Count IV is for malice.[2]

I. Factual and Procedural Background

The following facts are gathered from Plaintiffs' statement of material facts (S.M.F.), Defendant's opposing statement (O.S.M.F.), Defendant's additional statement (A.S.M.F.), and Plaintiffs' reply statement (R.S.M.F.).

In 2012, Plaintiffs arranged to board their horse, Knotty, at Defendant's horse farm. (S.M.F. ¶1; O.S.M.F. ¶1.) Subsequently, on April 15, 2013, Plaintiff Jayne Soules signed an agreement that transferred ownership of Knotty to Defendant. (S.M.F. ¶ 2; O.S.M.F. ¶ 2.) Defendant drafted the agreement. (S.M.F. ¶ 2; O.S.M.F. ¶ 2.) Pursuant to Plaintiff Jayne Soules' request, Defendant added right of first refusal language to the contract. (S.M.F. ¶ 3.) The meaning and intent of the language is disputed by the parties. (S.M.F. ¶ 3; O.S.M.F. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff Jayne Soules believed that the language meant that Knotty would be returned to Plaintiffs if Defendant could no longer keep Knotty, whereas Defendant was under the impression that the language meant that Plaintiffs had a right to re-obtain Knotty prior to the conveyance of Knotty to a third-party. (S.M.F. ¶ 3; O.S.M.F. ¶ 3.) It is disputed whether or not Plaintiffs continued to pay for Knotty's board up until ownership of Knotty transferred to Defendant. (S.M.F. ¶ 4.; O.S.M.F. ¶ 4.)

On September 25, 2013, Defendant called Plaintiff Jayne Soules and, along with relaying additional medical concerns, she stated that Knotty was having trouble getting back up on his feet from the ground and that she was concerned that he would freeze once the weather turned cold. (S.M.F. ¶ 5; O.S.M.F. ¶ 5.) Defendant also shared with Plaintiff Jayne Soules that she had decided that Knotty should be euthanized a few days later. (S.M.F. f 5; O.S.M.F. ¶ 5.) On September 27th, Plaintiff Jayne Soules asked that Defendant return Knotty to her pursuant to the April 15th contract. (S.M.F. ¶ 6; O.S.M.F. ¶ 6.) Without explanation, Defendant refused to return Knotty to Plaintiffs. (S.M.F. ¶ 7; O.S.M.F. ¶ 7.)

On September 28, 2013, Plaintiff Daniel Soules proceeded to contact a Lewiston Sun Journal reporter to state that he felt Knotty's euthanization could be prevented through medical treatment at Plaintiffs' expense. (S.M.F. ¶ 8; O.S.M.F. ¶ 8.) While a September 28, 2013 article from the Sun Journal was attached to Plaintiffs' memorandum of law as Exhibit B, and an October 11, 2013 Sun Journal article was attached to Plaintiff's reply memorandum as Exhibit A, neither party cited to the articles in their statements of material facts. The content of the articles is the basis for the majority of the Counterclaim. Instead, Defendant has presented a series of statements that appear to attempt to refute the content of the articles. The statements are presented out of context without excerpts from the articles, but as the parties did not provide those excerpts the court cannot consider them as facts in this case. The following five assertions fall into this category:

• Defendant never stated to Plaintiffs that she had "sunk money into Knotty's care and there was just no other way." (A.S.M.F. ¶14.)
• It is untrue that there was nothing wrong with Knotty. (A.S.M.F. ¶ 15; R.S.M.F. ¶ 15.)
• Defendant did not want to kill Knotty. (A.S.M.F. ¶ 16; R.S.M.F. ¶ 16.)
• It is also untrue that Defendant's horse farm was not a safe location for Knotty. (A.S.M.F. ¶ 17.)
• Defendant did not intend to sell or kill Knotty for horsemeat. (A.S.M.F. ¶ 19.)

Due to concern that Knotty might be euthanized prior to a court decision on the enforceability of the right of first refusal provision, Plaintiffs asked that the court issue a temporary restraining order ("TRO"). (S.M.F. ¶ 9; O.S.M.F. ¶ 9.) A TRO was issued on October 10, 2013. (S.M.F. ¶ 9; O.S.M.F. 9.)

Plaintiffs attached to the Complaint and request for an injunction, an affidavit from Plaintiff Jayne Soules stating the sole reason she could think of for Defendant refusing to return Knotty to Plaintiffs was that Defendant must be planning to sell Knotty for horsemeat. (S.M.F. ¶ 10; O.S.M.F. ¶ 10.)

Again, although not referenced in the statement of material facts, the court takes judicial notice that Dr. Thomas Judd, a veterinarian, was agreed to by the parties and appointed by the court to evaluate Knotty's condition. Based on Dr. Judd's report that Knotty did not appear to be terminally ill, the court subsequently granted Plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction, which served to stay the euthanization of Knotty. (S.M.F. ¶ 11; O.S.M.F. 11.) The court takes judicial notice of its December 5, 2013 Order, specifying, among other things, that Plaintiffs were to pay for Knotty's veterinary care pursuant to the Order. (S.M.F. ¶ 11; O.S.M.F. ¶ 11.) The court also takes judicial notice that on January 14, 2014, due to a decline in Knotty's health, the court vacated the Order.

As a result of the pending litigation and in accordance with the court's stay of Knotty's euthanization, Defendant was forced to make payments, incur expenses, and spend money on Knotty's treatment and care, even though she did not feel the payments were appropriate and necessary and she would not have made the payments if it had been up to her discretion. (A.S.M.F. ¶ 21.)

Finally, although Defendant has claimed severe emotional distress, in her interrogatory response, Defendant admitted that she had not received medical treatment for emotional distress. (S.M.F. ¶ 13; O.S.M.F. ¶ 13; A.S.M.F. ¶ 22; R.S.M.F. ¶ 22.)

Lastly, Defendant maintains that she loves horses and her business' success is contingent upon the community perceiving her as a horse lover. ...

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