Euthanized Dogs May Leave Deputy Liable
(CN) - A Georgia man can sue a sheriff's deputy for allegedly tricking him into signing away his dogs to be euthanized, a state appeals court ruled.
Though the latest reversal by the Court of Appeals is short on details, the Georgia Supreme Court gave a full recitation last year of the claims Mitchell Greenway filed against Northside Hospital, Forsyth County, its animal shelter provider, the county sheriff and Deputy Terry Roper.
Greenway, who was totally disabled, said he had left his two golden Labrador retrievers, Misty and Dakota, in his backyard with food and water in January 2007 when an ambulance brought him to Northside.
Confused and "out of it" in the Atlanta emergency room, Greenway said he thought he might die and told a patient advocate about the dogs he had left at home.
Greenway had an understanding with his neighbor about taking care of the dogs as needed, but Deputy Roper allegedly came to the patient's room with a release form.
Greenway testified that he is nearly blind without his glasses, but that the deputy and the animal-control workers all refused to read the form to him.
Roper was allegedly adamant that Greenway "sign the damn form.'
Greenway said he believed the form meant that the dogs would go to the Humane Society and realized after later finding his glasses that the form authorized the county to destroy his animals. Before he recovered from his illness, the animals were euthanized.
Greenway claimed that Roper had falsely stated that he worked for the Humane Society, and that the deputy failed to correct statements by animal-control personnel that he could reclaim the animals in seven to 10 days.
The trial court granted summary judgment to all defendants, but an appellate court later revived claims against Roper, the hospital, and the animal shelter operator.
In reversing that decision last year, the Georgia Supreme Court said directed the lower court to determine whether Roper acted with malice or intent to injure.
The Court of Appeals determined on May 27 that this may have been the case.
"The harm suffered by Greenway in this case was his surrender of all legal rights to his dogs, including the ability to prevent their euthanization," Judge Michael Boggs wrote for a three-judge panel. "A jury could infer from the evidence presented that Deputy Roper intended his harm when he coerced or defrauded Greenway into signing the release of his legal rights."