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10 Weird Court Cases Involving Puppets, Animals, And Human Fetuses

by Oliver Taylor
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Nonliving objects and animals are not always safe from litigation. Over the years, people have sued animals and even inanimate objects like puppets. In turn, people have been sued by animals and nonhuman objects.

Obviously, lawsuits of this nature aren’t actually filed by animals or nonliving things but by people or groups. While the following court cases are bizarre, hilarious, or both, they show just how far people will go to get justice.

10 Musician Loses Court Battle Against Puppet

Photo credit: AP/Schalk van Zuydam

South African musician Steve Hofmeyr holds the rare distinction of having lost a court case to a puppet. The puppet in question is Chester Missing, which is owned by South African ventriloquist and comedian Conrad Koch (pictured above with Chester).

The whole thing began in November 2014, when Hofmeyr blamed black people for apartheid. Koch replied in a series of tweets he posted on his personal Twitter page and Missing’s Twitter page in which he criticized Hofmeyr over his racist statement. One of his messages urged Hofmeyr’s sponsors to cancel their contracts with the musician.

Hofmeyr requested for a protection order against Koch and Missing over what he called threats and harassment. However, he failed to receive the order when a court determined that Koch and Missing had done nothing wrong and could tweet about Hofmeyr. The court also ordered Hofmeyr to pay Koch and Missing’s attorney fees.

Koch quickly returned to making tweets about Hofmeyr, who he called “Racistboy.” The less-than-amused Hofmeyr accused the courts of siding with the comedian and his puppet.[1]

9 Kansas Sues A Toyota Truck And Loses

In 2018, the state of Kansas lost a lawsuit against a Toyota pickup truck. Sergeant Christopher Ricard of the Geary County Sheriff’s Department stopped the truck over a partially obscured traffic plate. However, he impounded it when Scooby, his police dog, sniffed out 11.9 grams of marijuana hidden inside the vehicle. Sergeant Ricard also found $84,000 in cash.

The state filed to seize the vehicle and money. Considering that it was a civil forfeiture case, the state listed the truck, money, and marijuana as defendants instead of the two men driving it. However, the court determined that the state could not legally seize the truck and money because Sergeant Ricard had illegally extended the stop to allow Scooby to sniff the vehicle.[2]

8 Police Dog Wins Lawsuit Filed By A Burglar It Bit

On July 6, 2013, a Georgia man named Randall Kevin Jones broke into his ex’s home and stole several items, including her television, camera, and game console. The unnamed ex called the police after spotting Jones leaving her home. Officers from the Gwinnett County Police Department responded to the scene.

The police found Jones and ordered him to surrender. Jones didn’t and started to run. He continued running, even after an officer threatened to send a police dog after him. The officer ultimately unleashed the dog, named Draco. Draco bit Jones, sending him falling into a ravine. Jones required some stitches for his injuries.

Two years later, Jones sued the police department for “excessive use of force.” As defendants, he named at least three officers and the dog, which was listed as “Officer K-9 Draco of the Gwinnett County Police Department in his individual capacity.” Jones claimed Officer K-9 Draco bit him “for what seemed like a lifetime.” He also claimed the officers watched and didn’t try to get Draco off him as this was happening.

Gwinnet County tried to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a federal judge rejected this, so the county appealed. Finally, Judge Robin Rosenbaum of the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta threw the case out, saying, “We hold that a dog may not be sued individually for negligence since a dog is not a person.” She added that dogs cannot be issued a subpoena, cannot get an attorney, and cannot pay damages if found guilty.[3]

7 Judge Stops Horse From Suing Its Owner

Photo credit: WFTS-TV

In 2018, a horse in Oregon sued its owner for neglect. It requested $100,000 in damages. However, a judge threw the case out because horses cannot sue their owners, or anybody for that matter. The horse itself did not file the lawsuit, though. The Animal Legal Defense Fund did on its behalf.

The horse, named Justice, was owned by Gwendolyn Vercher, who had left it outside in the cold. Justice was hungry, thirsty, and underweight by 136 kilograms (300 lb) at the time it was rescued. It also suffered from frostbite. Vercher was charged with neglect of an animal and paid for the horse’s treatment.

However, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed the lawsuit because Justice could need money for further treatment. The court ruled the horse could not file the lawsuit because otherwise, courts would soon be filled with animals suing their owners. Gwendolyn Vercher said the lawsuit was “outrageous.”[4]

6 Aborted Fetus Sues Abortion Clinic

Photo credit: WAAY-TV

In March 2019, Ryan Magers sued the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville, Alabama, for aborting his unborn child. Also listed as defendants were the company that made the pill used for the abortion, the doctor who did the abortion, and every organization the doctor worked with.

Ryan Magers called the fetus Baby Roe. He claimed his girlfriend aborted Baby Roe in February 2017. She was six weeks pregnant at the time and went ahead with the abortion after he refused. Magers said he filed the lawsuit because he wants the law to protect fathers of unborn children.

For now, the law allows the mother to abort the baby without any consideration from the father. The lawsuit has raised eyebrows among feminists and pro-abortion advocates. The case is currently ongoing.[5]

5 Monkey Selfie Ends In A Win For Photographer

Photo credit: David Slater

In 2008, photographer David Slater encountered a troop of crested black macaques while taking pictures at an Indonesian wildlife park. While he concentrated on shooing some curious monkeys, others snuck to his camera, which was on a tripod, and started to click on the shutter.

The monkeys took hundreds of pictures, some of which included Slater. However, the most popular was a selfie taken by a monkey that pressed on the shutter. What followed was a bizarre copyright battle between Slater and the monkey, which was named Naruto.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) claimed that Naruto owned the copyright to the picture. Slater insisted that he owned the copyright and not Naruto. In 2015, PETA filed a copyright lawsuit on behalf of Naruto. In 2017, PETA agreed to dump the lawsuit on the condition that Slater gave them 25 percent of the royalties he received from the images.

However, in 2018, a court stopped PETA from settling the lawsuit because it wanted to pass judgment that would allow judges to decide over similar incidents in the future. The court ruled that animals cannot file or own copyrights. This effectively gave copyright ownership to Slater.[6]

4 Wheelchair Thief Sues Police Dog

Photo credit: KGTV

On April 23, 2015, 55-year-old Stanley McQuery broke into the Hillcrest, San Diego, home of 79-year-old William Ballard. He attacked Ballard and stole his phone and electric wheelchair. He also demanded money. The police were called in.

Officers found McQuery in the neighborhood. For some reason, his getaway vehicle was Ballard’s wheelchair, which traveled at a pitiable 3.2 kilometers per hour (2 mph). The police sent a dog after McQuery after he refused orders to stop. McQuery was ultimately sentenced to 16 years in prison because he already had three felony convictions.

In 2016, McQuery sued the police dog for “excessive force, assault and battery” while in prison. He demanded $7 million in compensation. He claimed he was already on the ground at the time the officer set the dog on him. He added that the officer told the dog, “Eat him up, eat him up.”

McQuery later claimed he made a mistake by naming the dog as a defendant. He said he loved dogs and never planned to sue a dog. However, this does not explain the fact that he listed the dog as a defendant twice.[7]

3 Monkey Gets Charged With Assault For Attacking Woman

On November 29, 1877, The New York Times reported that one Ms. Mary Shea lost a lawsuit against Jimmy Dillio, a monkey owned by one Mr. Casslo Dillio. Trouble began for Jimmy when Mr. Dillio took him to Ms. Shea’s shop. Shea offered Jimmy a piece of candy, which he accepted while chattering in appreciation.

However, Jimmy turned violent and bit Ms. Shea’s finger when she playfully attempted to retrieve the candy. Mrs. Shea got Mr. Dillio and Jimmy arrested and taken to court. Judge Flammer threw the case out, saying the that court could not charge monkeys. Jimmy reportedly exhibited some gentlemanly behavior by doffing his hat after Judge Flammer delivered the decision.[8]

2 Woman Attempts To Get Monkeys Charged With Sexual Assault

In 2015, 23-year-old Melissa Hart tried getting a pair of monkeys arrested and charged with sexual assault while he was visiting Gibraltar. She was watching the Barbary macaques when two of them attacked her without warning.

The monkeys scratched her with their paws, pulled at her clothes and hair, and removed her bikini top. She screamed for help during the attack, but nearby tourists just laughed. She was saved when a warden chased the monkeys away.

A startled, embarrassed, and angry Ms. Hart reported the incident to the police and tried to file charges against the monkeys. The officers turned down her request because monkeys are wild animals and cannot be charged. One officer even asked her if she could identify the monkeys in a police lineup.[9]

1 Man Sues Police Dog After He Was Bitten

In 2018, 66-year-old Joseph Carr of Oregon sued a police dog named Rolo and its handler, Deputy Jason Bernards of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, because Rolo bit him. Rolo bit Carr on September 18, 2016, as Carr attended the opening of a store.

Carr met Deputy Bernards and Rolo standing at the entrance of the store. Bernards told Rolo to “say hi,” which Carr took as an invitation to pet the dog. However, Rolo bit Carr in the abdomen when Carr touched the canine’s ear and head. Carr sued for $50,000 in damages.

Deputy Bernards claimed that Carr was bitten because he wrapped his hands around the dog’s snout. However, Carr’s attorney, Brian Hefner, noted that surveillance footage shows that Carr only touched the dog’s head and ear. Carr said the bite scar constantly reminds him of the “horrific and unnecessary event.”[10]

fact checked by Jamie Frater