An Elephant Never Forgets

You might recall the outrageous lawsuit filed against Feld Entertainment Inc., better known as the group that runs Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. After almost a decade, a judge ruled, and the Court of Appeals confirmed, that animal rights groups and a former elephant trainer did not have standing to sue the circus on claims that it abused Asian elephants.

The circus didn’t take this one sitting down. Feld sued the activists for what is alleged to be a massive racketeering scheme perpetrated by the Humane Society of the United States and its allies. From the Blog of Legal Times we learn that Feld has cleared another hurdle in getting justice. The then-plaintiffs-now-defendants filed a motion to dismiss in D.C. District Court and a judge heard their case last June. On Monday, the court determined that most of the allegations against the activists can move forward. BLT explains:

The animal rights groups sued Feld Entertainment in 2000, accusing the circus of mistreating its elephants. Sullivan dismissed the case in 2009, finding that the one individual plaintiff, Thomas Rider, who had worked with the circus’s elephants, wasn’t credible and had essentially been paid to serve as a plaintiff and fact witness.[…]

The company, in its complaint, accused the animal rights groups of conspiring to pay Rider, bring a lawsuit under false premises and raise funds from outside donors based on “materially false and/or misleading statements” about their case and Feld Entertainment.

This spells trouble for HSUS and two of its attorneys, who were specifically named in the RICO conspiracy. Jonathan Lovvorn and Kimberly Ockene must still face allegations of their involvement, and HSUS was not let off the hook for the actions of the Fund for Animals, a group HSUS merged with in 2005.

This is probably costing Feld a fortune in legal fees some of which it hopes to recover from the earlier case – $20 million, to be precise. Head on over to HumaneWatch for more on the litigation. We’ll keep you updated as this case moves forward, but it could be treble trouble for HSUS and the other defendants.