9th Circuit Nixes ‘Petty Feud’ Over ‘Red the Horse’

     (CN) – The 9th Circuit tossed a man’s decade-long “petty feud” with an employee over a $750 horse, a $5,000 mobile home and tapes of recorded phone calls, noting that “Red the Horse may finally be on the path to ending his journey through the federal courts.”

     “It all started with the horse,” Judge Reinhardt wrote in the introduction.
     Eric Noel owns the Vancouver Riding Academy where Sandra Hall worked. They agreed to jointly purchase a horse named Red Hot Prospect for $750, with the goal of training it, reselling it and splitting the profits.
     Around the same time, Hall sold Noel her mobile home for $5,000.
     But their relationship soured, and they fought over the management of the horse and the ownership of the home.
     During a visit to the mobile home, where Noel now lived, Hall discovered a cache of cassette tapes containing recordings of Hall’s phone conversations while she lived at the academy.
     One of Hall’s friends, whose conversation with Hall had been taped, contacted attorney Herb Weissler. He told the women to turn the tapes over to the police after making copies, which they did.
     A slew of lawsuits followed, including an action filed by Noel in state court over “Red the Horse.” Hall countersued, alleging violations of federal wiretapping laws. She won $2,500 plus legal costs and attorneys’ fees.
     Noel then sued Hall, Weissler and others in federal court, claiming federal wiretapping violations, damage to the mobile home, damage to his personal property, extortion and blackmail, among a litany of allegations. “In fact, there were few torts he failed to allege other than horse thievery,” Reinhardt noted.
     The district court dismissed the case, but the 9th Circuit revived the suit in September 2003 and remanded. “Thus the saga of Red the Horse survived once more and once more the federal courts became enmeshed in the petty feud between Noel and the others,” the judge wrote.
     The case once again died in district court, but this time the San Francisco-based appeals court refused to beat a dead horse.

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