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JOAN TELL, et al. against GEORGE MORRIS, HUNTERDON, INC., CHRIS KAPPLER, et al Defendants.

Hunterdon County

 

No. 00-6258 AET

 

VERIFIED COMPLAINT

Plaintiffs JOAN TELL, WILLIAM TELL, and TELLWYND, INC., also referred to as “the Tells” or “the Farm” respectively, or collectively, as ” plaintiffs”), complaining
of defendants GEORGE MORRIS (“Morris”), HUNTERDON, INC. (“Hunterdon”), CHRIS KAPPLER (“Kappler”), JOHN R. STEELE & ASSOCIATES, INC. and DR.

JOHN R. STEELE individually (“Steele”), NEW ENGLAND EQUINE PRACTICE, P.C. (“New England Equine”) and DR. GABE COOK (“Cook”) state as follows:

JURISDICTION

1. Plaintiffs JOAN TELL and WILLIAM TELL are Citizens of the State of Pennsylvania, and plaintiff TELLWYND, INC. is a corporation with its principal place of
business in Pennsylvania.
2. Defendants GEORGE MORRIS and CHRIS KAPPLER are citizens of the State of New Jersey.
3. Defendant HUNTERDON, INC. is a corporation with principal offices in New Jersey.
4. Defendant JOHN R. STEELE & ASSOCIATES, INC. is a veterinary practice with Dr. John R. Steele as its principal and offices located in Vernon, New York.
6. Defendant NEW ENGLAND EQUINE PRACTICE, P.C. is a veterinary practice with Dr. Gabe Cook as a principal and offices located in Brewster, New York.
7. The amount in controversy exceeds, exclusive of punitive damages, interest and costs, the sum of Seventy-five Thousand Dollars.

 

VENUE

8. The venue is proper in this Court in that acts and transactions constituting a portion of the plaintiffs’ causes of action occurred in this judicial district, in addition to which
most of the defendants permanently reside in this judicial district.

THE PARTIES

9. Plaintiffs JOAN TELL and WILLIAM TELL are citizens of the State of Pennsylvania and reside and are domiciled at ….

10. Defendant MORRIS resides at …
II. Defendant KAPPLER, upon information and belief, resides at …
12. Defendant HUNTERDON, INC. is a corporation with its principal offices at 680 Sidney Road, Pittstown, New Jersey 08867.
13. Defendant STEELE is a corporation and individual with principal offices at   P. 0. Box 483, Youngs Road, Vernon, New York 13476.
14. Defendant NEW ENGLAND EQUINE is a corporation and Dr. Gabe Cook a principal individual practitioner within the corporation with its principal offices at 310
Peach Lake Road, Brewster, New York 10509.

NATURE OF THE ACTION

15. Plaintiffs, the Tells, in or about October 1998 agreed with defendants Morris and Kappler to send to their care, custody and control a Westphalian stallion owned by
the Tells named GRANDE SABER (“Saber”), for training and riding in Grand Prix circuit competitions as a show jumper, and for agenting by Morris and Kappler for sale or
syndication. Saber was 9 years old at the time and had already established himself as a world-class stallion of superior bloodlines and ability with many premium, successful

offspring. Defendants Morris and Kappler also agreed to have Saber collected artificially because he had certain pre-existing breeding commitments which took precedence over

his show schedule. Saber was sent by Morris and Kappler to Mid-Atlantic Equine Medical Center for this purpose from time to time between April and June 1999.

16. Morris is a world class trainer, judge, and former competitor who trainers in conjunction with Kappler, a world-class rider. Morris, upon information and belief, is the sole stockholder

and owner of defendant Hunterdon, Inc.
17. Morris and Kappler agreed to train Saber and to show him in the circuit of Grand Prix jumping competitions along with their other horses in training and competition, as well as

promote him individually to potential purchasers or investors.
18. After training at Hunterdon for several months, Saber’s jumping career with defendants began with a trip to Florida in January 1999 with competitions there in January, February and March 1999.
19. Upon returning to Hunterdon m April, the Tells were contacted for permission, which was granted, to send Saber to a local veterinary hospital as a precaution, as he was

allegedly dehydrated from the trip.
20. In or about May 1999 Saber went to a competition in New Jersey and then on to Kentucky, returning the later part of May. Upon his return to New Jersey, he was transported to

Mid Atlantic Equine for semen collection.
21. At this point, plaintiffs had several discussions with defendants Morris or Kappler or Hunderton’s representatives regarding Saber’s progress, his syndication potential, and the

charges on the bills plaintiffs received from defendant Hunterdon, Inc.
22. Plaintiffs believed that defendants were not enthusiastic about their horse, or had become disenchanted with him and were not using their best efforts to promote him or enhance his career.

Plaintiffs threatened to remove Saber from the care of defendants and take him home.

23. Plaintiffs also questioned defendants regarding their billings, and as to the health status of Saber. Plaintiffs were told by defendants that Saber was fine and that if they would allow

Saber to compete at the Lake Placid horse show at the end of June that defendants would show Saber to clients who might be interested in him.
24. Plaintiffs agreed to allow Saber to compete at Lake Placid, but he never made it into the show ring. Rather, Saber became ill and, exacerbated by his treatment, in

short order deteriorated to the point of having to be put down.
25. Plaintiffs now bring this action against the stable Hunterdon, Inc., its owner and management George Morris and Chris Kappler, their show veterinarian Dr. John R.
Steele and his practice, and New England Equine Clinic and Dr. Gabe Cook, the clinic and veterinarian which treated Saber until his demise on counts of negligence, breach of
contract, tortuous interference with prospective economic benefit, fraud, and veterinary malpractice.

 

THE FACTS

26. Plaintiffs’ agreement with Morris and Kappler was initially that they would evaluate plaintiffs’ horse to determine his potential for jumping in world-class competitions, and his marketability.
27. After their initial evaluation defendants, Morris and Kappler told plaintiffs that they liked the horse and would like to have defendant Kappler compete with him in their scheduled

competitions. General terms and conditions of training, showing and expenses were set forth orally and agreed to by the parties.
28. However, once at Hunterdon, defendants Morris and Kappler advised plaintiffs that the horse needed more time for training, and persuaded plaintiffs to leave

Saber there for several months prior to competition. Defendants also suggested that their original evaluation of Saber’s education might have been overly optimistic and that he

might take longer than anticipated to be able to compete in higher levels.
29. Plaintiffs had already established Saber as a performance and conformation horse as well as a prepotent sire, and advised defendants Morris and Kappler that his
breeding schedule, which he performed by artificial collection, would take precedence over his competition schedule.
30. When plaintiffs received bills from defendant Hunterdon, Inc ., the bills were not itemized so that plaintiffs could ascertain how the amounts were arrived at for their
“share” of charges such as “tack and grooming stalls, bedding, housing and travel, horse show laundry, feed” etc., and the bills were seemingly exorbitant.
31 . When plaintiffs expressed concern over trying to decipher and understand the bills and wanted to know Saber’s training, showing and health status, defendants Morris
and Kappler became antagonistic and verbally abusive.
32. Before plaintiffs could advise defendants whether or not they would agree to have Saber transported to Lake Placid for one last show, defendants had already entered
Saber and his shipped him to Lake Placid at 6:00 AM on the morning of June 28, 1999.
33 . Plaintiffs advised defendants Morris and Kappler that it was possible that there would be mare owners who would need semen shipped to them during the horse
show, and that his breeding career took precedence over his showing career if there was a conflict. Defendants promised to locate a clinic near the horse show for collecting Saber
but never did so.

34. Upon information and belief, Saber became ill while stabled in Lake Placid at the horse show grounds and was examined by defendant Steele on June 29 that
approximately 1:00 PM at which time Dr. Steele drew blood for various tests and sent same to a Veterinary Laboratory in Kentucky for analyses.
35. Upon information and belief, with clinical signs of slightly elevated temperature of 101.4 degrees and allegedly hearing lung sounds which suggested the
possibility of respiratory infection, Dr. Steele treated Saber with two antibiotic injections, Naxcel (administered intervenous) and Gentocin (administered intermuscular).
36. Upon information and belief, on the following day Dr. Steele had the benefit of the results of the blood tests done in Kentucky which were normal. Although Saber’s
temperature and lung sounds were also normal, Dr. Steele administered the two antibiotics as well as Phenolbutezol (“Bute”), an anti-inflammatory drug, in the morning.
At night he gave Saber yet another injection of Naxcel.
37. Upon information and belief, on Thursday, July 1 in the morning Saber, still with a normal temperature, was again given injections of Naxcel and Gentocin. By the
evening Saber had developed a temperature and allegedly respiration and vesicular murmur (lung sounds) were increased. Again that evening, another injection of Naxcel
was administered, along with an injection of Bute.
38. Upon information and belief, on Friday, July 2, 1999, after obtaining a temperature reading of high normal, injections of Bute, Gentocin, and Naxcel were administered by defendant Steele.

39. Upon information and belief, Dr. Christopher Miller ultrasounded Saber’s lungs, and the report was unremarkable. A tracheal wash was also taken, with unremarkable results.
40. Upon information and belief, again, bloodwork and the tracheal wash was sent to Kentucky for analyses. The shipment was sent for Saturday delivery, but instead
traveled by Two-Day Service and therefore rendered testing impossible, not arriving in Kentucky until the blood had degraded.
41. Upon information and belief, on July 2nd defendant Steele also treated Saber for a thrombosed jugular vein, due to the many inter venous injections were given without a catheter having been utilized.
42. Upon information and belief, on the evening of July 2 the defendant Steele, having obtained a high normal temperature reading from Saber, administered fluids electrolytes,

vitamins, cacao copper and DMSO, together with Bute and another injection of Naxcel.
43. Upon information and belief, by Saturday morning, July 3rd, Saber’s condition had worsened with accelerated respirations and temperature slightly above normal range.

Saber refused to eat grain and was allegedly appearing depressed. Defendant Steele administered Gentocin, Naxcel, Bute, 5 liters of fluids, electrolytes, vitamins, and DMSO.
44. Upon information and belief, by Saturday evening Saber had a temperature of 102, was depressed, had elevated pulse and respirations and was given Naxcel, Bute,
10 liters of fluids, electrolytes, and DMSO, and 10 grams of Metronidazole tablets orally.

45. Upon information and belief, Dr. Steele allegedly made plans for Saber to be seen at Mid-Atlantic Equine in New Jersey on Sunday morning.
46. Upon information and belief, however, Saber was not shipped to New Jersey for a Sunday morning appointment despite the alleged recommendation of Steele, and by
Sunday morning had a high pulse and respiratory rate had projectile diarrhea and poor mucous membranes. Saber was given Banamine, Metronidazole, 10 liters of fluids,
electrolytes, and diarrhea medication. He was shipped to New England Equine Clinic in Brewster, New York, as by that time, it was decided that time was of the essence.
47. Plaintiffs, first through a call to their barn manager and then through a call to them from Jen Bates, the defendant Hunterdon’s bam manager, were for the first time
notified of Saber’s condition on the morning of July 4, 1999. Plaintiffs were informed that Saber was going to Mid-Atlantic Equine. Plaintiffs were also told that until Saturday
(the previous day) Saber was acting and eating fine and that he was not in bad shape, but being sent to a clinic for monitoring as Lake Placid was in a remote area in case there was
a problem.
48. Later that morning plaintiffs’ barn manager was contacted again by Jen Bates to say that there was a change in plans and Saber was going to New England Equine
instead, as it was closer.
49. Plaintiffs were told that the problem sounded like an anaerobe in Saber’s lung and that it was a low-grade problem. They were also told that Dr. Bradley at New
England Equine had been spoken too and was expecting Saber.

50. Plaintiffs called New England Equine about 3:00 PM on July 4th, and spoke With Dr. Gabe Cook, who was unaware that Saber was arriving and unaware of his history.
51. Dr. Cook called plaintiffs sometime later that evening and indicated that Saber might not live more than 24 hours as his prognosis was extremely poor. He had
endotoxemia and possibly colitis or Potomac Fever, terrible diarrhea, dehydration and was toxic.
52. Jen Bates of defendant Hunterdon, Inc. was contacted that same day by plaintiffs’ farm manager and was told that Saber’s gut was a little upset from antibiotics
so Dr. Bradley took him off medications to settle his tummy, and that she was told by Dr. Bradley that Saber had an abscess in his lungs, but his temperature was good.
53. Plaintiffs were advised by Dr. Cook on Monday that Saber was not responding to treatment and was “dead on his feet” and in pain; euthanasia was

recommended and was performed on Monday evening, July 5, 1999.
54. Plaintiffs requested that Dr. Cook collect that scrotum and seminal vesicles as per their discussions with two other veterinarians who were familiar with the procedure,
in order to freeze semen for future use. Dr. Cook refused to do so.
55. The following day, Tuesday, July 6, 1999, Jen Bates of defendant Hunterdon, Inc. telephoned plaintiffs to report that Saber was doing fine. Plaintiffs
informed her that Saber had been euthanized at about 7:30 PM the previous evening.
COUNT 1
(Breach of Contract)
56. Plaintiffs repeats and realleges paragraphs 1 through 55 as if more fully set forth herein.

57. Defendants Morris and Kappler failed to notify plaintiffs of the medical condition of plaintiffs’ horse Saber in a timely manner as agreed to and as is the standard
of care in the industry, so that plaintiffs could have had input into his treatment.
58. Defendants Morris and Kappler failed to exercise the standard of care for plaintiffs ‘ horse as agreed to by the parties and as is required in the industry.
59. Defendants Morris and Kappler failed to charge plaintiffs properly and/or to explain their invoices for Hunderdon, Inc.’s monthly billings.
60. Defendants Morris and Kappler failed to maintain a professional and reasonable demeanor in public toward plaintiffs for which plaintiffs’ were paying
enhanced prices for said association with “world-class professionals”.
61. As a result of defendants Morris and Kappler’s breach of contract, plaintiffs have suffered economic damages, including the loss of their property and future
economic benefit.
WHEREFORE, the plaintiffs Joan Tell and William Tell pray that defendants Morris and Kappler are found to have breached their contractual obligation to plaintiffs
and that
a) judgment is awarded against them or any of them, jointly or severally, and in
favor of plaintiffs in the sum of $1,000,000.
b) plaintiffs are awarded costs of suit, and
c) for such other relief as it may be determined is just and proper.
COUNT II
(Negligence)

 

63. Defendants Morris and Kappler acted negligently, and with gross negligence with regard to the care, custody, and control of plaintiffs’ horse, negligently performed as

professionals, and negligently retained others to perform duties delegated by them.
64. As a result of defendants’ negligence and gross negligence, plaintiffs have suffered damages and consequential damages.

 

WHEREFORE, plaintiff demands judgment against defendants Morris or Kappler or any of them, jointly or severally, and in favor of plaintiff in the sum of $1,000,000,
together with costs of suit, including reasonable attorney’s fees, and for punitive damages in the sum of $1,000,000, and for such other relief as may be determined to be just and
proper.

 

COUNT Ill
(Loss of Economic Benefit)
65. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege paragraphs 1 through 64 as if more fully set forth herein.
66. As a result of defendants Morris and Kappler’s actions, plaintiffs have been deprived of economic benefit and prospective economic gain.

 

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs demand judgment against defendants Morris and Kappler or any of them, jointly or severally, and in favor of plaintiffs in the sum of
$1,000,000, together with costs of suit including reasonable attorney’s fees, and for such
other relief as may be determined to be just and proper.
COUNT IV
(Fraud)
67. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege paragraphs I through 66 as if more fully set
forth herein.
68. Plaintiffs were told by defendants Morris and Kappler that, because of their world class status, they had many clients and contacts to whom they could show
plaintiffs’ horse, and that plaintiffs would gain the benefit of these contacts.
69. Defendants Morris and Kappler, during the entire time that they had Saber in their care, custody, and control, failed to present him to a single client.
70. Plaintiffs were told that their horse would be able to compete at the upper levels of jumping competitions, but in the entire time that defendants had care, custody
and control over Saber, he was never entered into an upper-level competition.
71. Plaintiffs were told that they would have personal contact with defendant Morris, but Morris never took their calls, and when at horse shows, berated them and
screamed at them publically, causing plaintiffs anxiety, embarrassment and loss of reputation.
72. Despite paying exorbitant prices plaintiffs did not receive any of the benefits for which they were told that they were paying, and because of the public attitude of
defendants Morris and Kappler, plaintiffs believe they were defrauded by defendants and that defendants never intended to confer said benefits upon plaintiffs.
73. As a result of the fraud perpetrated upon plaintiffs by defendants Morris and Kappler, plaintiffs have been damaged.

 

WHEREFORE, plaintiffs demand damages in the sum of $1,000,000, punitive damages, and counsel fees, together with costs of suit, and for such other relief as may be
determined to be just and proper.

 

COUNT V
(Veterinary Malpractice- Defendant Steele)
74. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege paragraphs I through 73 as if more fully set forth herein.
75. Defendant John R. Steele and Associates, Inc ., and more specifically Dr. John R. Steele, equine veterinarian, was retained by defendants Morris and Kappler to
treat horses under their care, custody, and control while at horse shows.
76. Upon information and belief, Dr. Steele travels to various horse shows where he has Morris and Kappler, as well as other trainers or individuals, as clients.
77. Dr. Steele, upon infonnation and belief, specialized in leg injuries and not in internal medicine for horses, and does not carry with him to horse shows the supply of
fluids and other medications necessary to treat an internal problem properly.
78. Dr. Steele was retained without consultation of plaintiffs at the Lake Placid horse show to examine Saber.
79. Neither Dr. Steele nor defendants Morris or Kappler informed plaintiffs that Saber was being treated by Dr. Steele for any reason whatsoever. Had plaintiffs been so
informed, they would have removed Saber to a clinic specializing in internal treatment for equines.
80. Dr. Steele embarked upon an extremely aggressive treatment for a hypothesized problem that was not borne out to be legitimate by any results of tests
performed on Saber – that of a lung infirmity.
81. By failing to insert a catheter, Saber’s jugular was thrombozed from all of the injections given by Dr. Steele.

82. Neither Dr. Steele nor any other defendant informed plaintiffs of what medications were given to Saber, including the medication Naxcel, which is counterindicated
for breeding stock. Saber was supposed to have had his semen collected in Lake Placid.
83. Additionally, Naxcel is designed and recommended for upper respiratory infections, which was not confirmed in Saber. However, Naxcel, when given
extensively, can cause colitis, which is what happened to Saber. The very condition which caused Saber’s death was induced by Dr. Steele’s

having given a well horse megadoses of Naxcel, thereby invoking a condition which ended in toxic colitis.
84. Having failed to contact the owner of the horse regarding treatment of a serious condition, having caused the horse’s jugular vein to thrombose by failing to
utilize a catheter, having given the horse medication counter-indicated in animals used for breeding, and having aggressively treated a condition which did not exist, thereby
creating a disturbance in his colin, and finally having failed to have the horse removed to a clinic until it was too late to save him, Dr. Steele has deviated from the accepted
standard for practicing equine veterinarians.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs demand judgment against defendant Steele for damages, consequential damages, counsel fees, costs of suit, and for any other relief that
may seem just and reasonable.
COUNT VI
(Veterinary Malpractice – Defendant New England Equine Clinic)
85. Plaintiffs repeat and reallege paragraphs 1 through 84 as if more fully set forth herein.

86. Defendant New England Equine failed to be adequately prepared for plaintiffs’ horse upon its arrival and failed to perform services as requested by plaintiffs
to preserve semen of plaintiffs’ horse.
87. Defendant deviated from the accepted standard of veterinary practice for equine practitioners.
88. As a result, plaintiffs have suffered economic losses and prospective economic benefits of future breedings.
WHEREFORE, plaintiffs demand judgment against defendant New England Equine Clinic in the sum of $1,000,000 together with costs, counsel fees, and any other
relief which may seem just and reasonable.
DEMAND FOR TRIAL BY JURY
Pursuant to Rule 38(b) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, the plaintiffs hereby demand a jury trial in the above-entitled action as to all issues so triable.
Dated: September 19, 2000

 

CAROLE K. BOYD, ESQ.
Attorney for Plaintiffs

View Complaint 

 

View Defendants’ Answer & Counterclaim – George Morris, Chris Kappler, and Hunterdon, Inc.

 

View Defendants’ Answer – Dr. John Steele, DVM, and Dr. Gabe Cook

 

View Defendants’ Amended Answer & Counterclaim – George Morris, Chris Kappler, and Hunterdon, Inc.

 

View Defendants’ Answer to Crossclaim – Dr. John Steele, DVM, and Dr. Gabe Cook

 

View Amended Complaint

 

Jury Trial

October 2013 – Jury finds for Plaintiff and

against Defendants Hunterdon, Inc., George Morris, and Chris Kappler

 

1. Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Hunterdon had an oral
contract with them to promote Grande Saber in the manner alleged by the plaintiffs?

No 

If “No,” proceed to Question #4 
If “Yes,” answer the following question.

2. Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Hunterdon breached
the contract with plaintiffs to promote Grande Saber?

if ”No,” skip to Question #4.
If “Yes,” go to Question #3.

 

3. Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that that contract breach
was a proximate cause of damages/loss to them?

 

4. Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Hunterdon was
negligent (that they deviated from the standard of care required in the industry
regarding care, custody, and control of a horse by not shipping Grande Saber to a
clinic from the Lake Placid Horse Show sooner and/or not contacting the owners
sooner)?

YES

If “No,” proceed to Question #6
If “Yes,” answer the following question.

 


Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the negligence of
Hunterdon was a proximate cause of damages/loss to plaintiffs (death of the
horse)?

 

YES

 

Did plaintiffs prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Dr. John Steele was
negligent (that he deviated from the accepted standards for veterinary physicians
with regard to his treatment of the horse)?

 

NO

 

If “No,” return to the courtroom.
If “Yes,” answer Question #7

 

 

View George Morris Civil Suit Verdict Sheet