Propes v. Griffith

25 S.W.3d 544 (2000)

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Propes v. Griffith

Missouri Court of Appeals
25 S.W.3d 544 (2000)

Facts

David and Cindy Propes (plaintiffs) owned two dogs, a yellow Labrador and a Brittany Spaniel. Their neighbors, Mark and Sarah Griffith (defendants), owned a 40-acre tract of land on which they kept sheep and horses. One day, Sarah opted to sleep in her truck to monitor her sheep following a previous attack on the flock. During that time, Sarah saw the Propeses’ dogs among the cluster of sheep. Neither of the dogs were harming or causing injury to the sheep. However, Sarah claimed that the Brittany Spaniel was chasing a few sheep. Despite this, Sarah grabbed the dogs by the collars and loaded them into her truck. Sarah called the local sheriff’s office and informed officers that she believed the dogs belonged to the Propeses and of her intent to have them euthanized. The officers attempted to persuade Sarah to allow them to take the dogs, but she refused. Sarah then took the dogs to a local vet, who declined to euthanize them because they belonged to the Propeses. Sarah then took the dogs to another vet, signed a form claiming to be the owner, and had the dogs euthanized. Cindy eventually called Sarah asking about the dogs, and Sarah did not reveal that she had euthanized the animals. Later, the Propeses learned about the events and filed suit, claiming that the dogs were worth $2,000. The trial court ordered that the Griffiths were liable for the actual damages in this amount, and further that Sarah was individually liable for $4,000 in punitive damages for her outrageous actions in having the dogs put down. Sarah appealed the award of punitive damages, arguing that she was statutorily protected under a Missouri law that states a person may kill a dog that is in the act of killing, wounding, or chasing sheep.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lowenstein, J.)

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