Burgess v. Taylor

44 S.W.3d 806 (2001)

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Burgess v. Taylor

Kentucky Court of Appeals
44 S.W.3d 806 (2001)

Facts

In August 1994, Judy Taylor (plaintiff) entered into a free-lease agreement with Lisa and Jeff Burgess (defendants) that allowed Taylor to keep her horses on the Burgesses’ farm. Prior to relinquishing custody of the horses, Taylor told the Burgesses that she expected to visit the horses often and that she retained ownership of the horses. However, after the Burgesses gained possession of the horses, Lisa sold the horses to a slaughter-buyer for $1,000. A week later, Taylor informed the Burgesses that she planned to visit the farm to see her horses. Lisa told Taylor that the horses were no longer at the farm because a friend of the Burgesses had taken the horses. Taylor contacted the friend that Lisa had mentioned but received no information about the horses’ whereabouts. Taylor began working with a humane investigator to locate the horses. The investigator discovered that the horses had been slaughtered. Taylor filed an action against the Burgesses for breach of contract and for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Taylor testified in front of a jury that she experienced panic attacks, general anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, high blood pressure, and difficulty sleeping after discovering the horses had been slaughtered. The jury found the Burgesses guilty of the contract breach and of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The jury awarded Taylor $50,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages. The Burgesses appealed on the ground that Kentucky law prohibited emotional damages due to the loss of an animal. The Burgesses also claimed that the amount the jury had awarded Taylor was excessive. The Kentucky Court of Appeals reviewed the case.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Schroder, J.)

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