Gentle Giants Rescue Court Battle

In August 2005 a lawsuit was filed in the Orange County Courthouse  by Burt and Tracy Ward of Gentle Giants Rescue naming the defendants as Barbara Laird and Marc Sayer along with 2 others. This along with some of the other suits is very extensive and for all the correct legal information I suggest you click on the below link to read each court document.

What’s  going on in Animal Rescue that people feel if their feelings get hurt they need to run into court and sue someone else for their own mistakes?

The below case, if you take the time to read it will be worth your time. All court filings have been listed for view.

http://www.gentlegiantnews.com/lawsuit.html

 

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Wards File Suit
November 2005


In August 2005, Burt and Tracy Ward and Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions filed suit against Barbara Laird and Marc Sayer  and 2 other individuals in the Orange County Superior Court, in an attempt to stop them from speaking out to the public about their rescue operation and about how they have drastically impacted other peoples’ lives as a result of adopting Great Danes from their organization.


The suit alleges 7 separate Causes of Action.

  •    Defamation (Libel) of Burt and Tracy
  •      Defamation (Trade Libel) of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
  •      Intentional Interference With Potential Economic Advantage of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
  •      Negligent Interference With Potential Economic Advantage of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
  •      Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress of Burt and Tracy
  •      Negligence
  •      Injunctive Relief



Their attempts to intimidate and bully people will not prevent us from continuing to try to keep people informed. That sort of behavior may have worked for them in the past, but they are dealing with a new mindset now.  We are careful to verify and document what we publish, or to clearly state when we are voicing an opinion or theorizing, and we believe we are within our rights under the First Amendment to speak out on these issues. Gentle Giants is a 501c3 public charity, and as such they are subject to public scrutiny. What happens there is of interest to other adoptors, other rescues, to public shelters and other agencies, and to the public in general. The public has a right to know how this public charity conducts themselves.

The Wards and Gentle Giants brought suit against their local newspaper, the Press Enterprise two years ago, over a story about waste runoff. On July 23, 2004, the Riverside Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit as a meritless SLAPP and the Wards were ordered to pay the defendants $51,000 in attorney fees and court costs.

In our investigations, we heard from many adopters and others that Burt and Tracy Ward often threatens lawsuits, along with threats to “repossess” dogs adopted from Gentle Giants, as a way to intimidate people and keep them from speaking out or taking action.  In part, these intimidation efforts have been successful, but only because people were not aware of their rights or were afraid of being sued. A rescue may be able to sue you for breach of contract if you fail in some way to abide by the legally enforceable portions of the contract, and thereby get a monetary judgment against you. But not all portions of a contract are necessarily legally enforceable and failure to abide by an unenforceable clause or section should not be grounds for breach of contract. Laws vary from state to state. So it is always best to consult a lawyer, and to know exactly what your rights are. It is much harder to bully someone who knows their rights and responsibilities under the law. Bullies do not want you to know your rights.


What are we doing about it?
October 2005

Our attorneys have filed  “Special Motions to Strike” the lawsuit as a meritless SLAPP.  This is a Meritless Law Suit. !!!  



















To learn more about California Anti-SLAPP Laws (Stragetic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) visit    http://www.casp.net     (California Anti-Slapp Project)

The State of California has set up laws to protect individuals from being sued as a result of informing the public of safety and public concerns



Update 10/27/05 – The Wards are back in court today trying to force Sayer to shut down his website. Sayer has a hearing at 1:30 this afternoon on their emergency request for a temporary restraining order pending a ruling on their request for a permanent injunction.

STRIKE ONE:
Update 10/27/051:30 P.M.– The judge tossed out Burt Ward’s request for a temporary restraining order, telling them he saw little to no chance they could prevail in their request for a permanent injunction so he saw no reason to issue a temporary restraining order. They have requested and been granted a hearing on the permanent injunction on Nov. 18th., but the judge said he was skeptical that Mr. Ward could convince him to issue such an injunction.

STRIKE TWO:
Update  11/18/05  11:30 A.M. –  Burt Ward appeared in court today to obtain an injunction against Marc Sayer (producer of Rescue Watchdog website) and was denied AGAIN, after previously being denied on October 27, 2005 of a temporary restraining order against Mr. Sayer.

STRIKE THREE:
February 21, 2006   1:45 P.M.

Court decision has been made!
The Judge has dismissed ALL actions against ALL of us (Barbara Laird, Marc Sayer & Renee Broden) based on this case being a Meritless SLAPP Lawsuit because Gentle Giants / Burt Ward was unable to prove to the Judge that they could prevail IF this case went to trial.

As a reminder, the actions against us WERE as follows:
  •    Defamation (Libel) of Burt and Tracy
  •     Defamation (Trade Libel) of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
  •      Intentional Interference With Potential Economic Advantage of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
  •      Negligent Interference With Potential Economic Advantage of Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions Inc.
  •      Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress of Burt and Tracy
  •      Negligence
  •      Injunctive Relief


  • Click here to view a copy of the Laird’sSpecial Motion to Strike, filed on October 21, 2005
  • Click here to view a copy of the Laird’s Declaration to the Special Motion to Strike, filed on October 21, 2005
  • Click here to view a copy of the Sayer & Broden’sSpecial Motion to Strike, filed on October 24, 2005
  • Click here to view a copy of the Sayer & Broden’s Exhibits to the Special Motion to Strike, filed on October 24, 2005
 
California Anti-SLAPP Project

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  • Click here to view a copy of Judge Moberly’s Granting the Special Motion to Stike, filed on February 24, 2006
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One thought on “Gentle Giants Rescue Court Battle

  1. Marc Sayer says:

    Glad to see these underlying issues getting some attention. The SLAPP issue, especially in animal welfare, is really becoming critical. Everyone is getting on the lawsuit bandwagon as a way to preemptively sanitize their reputations. Animal Rights groups, breeders, and rescues alike are filing or threatening lawsuits when people speak out against them. It can’t be stressed enough that as things sit right now, just the threat of a suit is often enough to silence critics, simply because it can cost so much to defend yourself, no matter how ridiculous the suit (as proven by the recent Seven Star suit in MI, the merit of the case is irrelevant, the complaint can be virtual gibberish and still cost you money to defend against). That is having a very serious chilling effect on people’s willingness to speak out. Often just the threat of a lawsuit is enough, because without SLAPP protection, you really are defenseless against the cost. And when the people with criticisms can’t speak out, you get a very distorted picture, as is so clearly the case with Gentle Giants. While they couldn’t silence a few of us, we originally were part of a group of dozens of rescues, adopters, animal welfare people, lawyers, and others who were trying to get the word out about Gentle Giants. Of that group, only a handful still communicate and only two of us still maintain related websites. Most were intimidated by the Wards. Most were unwilling to risk their animals, homes and livelihoods to speak out. The bullying and threats of a lawsuit effectively silenced dozens of people and organizations. And I am certain the Wards believed their lawsuit against us would silence the rest of us. They were wrong. The Wards promote themselves all over the net and press. They post testimonials all over the place. And they try very hard to silence anyone who has anything negative to say about them. I am constantly asked by people, “if they are as bad as you claim, why do we see much more positive stuff about them on the net?” This is a huge part of the answer. When the threat of a lawsuit, or a the filing of a frivolous lawsuit can silence critics, all you have left are the carefully orchestrated praises. Without the critics’ voice, the public is so easily mislead, which results in all sorts of problems, not the least of which is donations that never do what the donor intended. Sadly the Wards are but one small example of this process. This same scenario repeats itself again and again. The characters change but the story remains the same. The legal system is being used and abused, as a tool to bludgeon critics and deny the public the right to hear all sides of an issue and to be fully informed.

    One small criticism, and a minor correction. The white text on the gray background is almost impossible to read (the text from gentlegiantnews). And the Wards sued 4 of us, not just Barb and I. They were unable to serve one defendant so that never went to court. But 3 of us did have to defend ourselves against that ridiculous suit. We were lucky, our case was heard in a state with real SLAPP protections. I am contacted regularly by others who fear they will be sued, for example Susan Barrett a defendant in the Seven Star case, contacted me a few months back. I try to help them and explain the SLAPP laws, I try to point them to whatever SLAPP info is available for their state and direct them to lawyers who handle these sorts of cases. Many times, when they live in states w/o SLAPP laws, I have to tell them, that a suit, no matter how baseless, no matter how ridiculous, may bankrupt them. That they may not be guilty of anything, but they may go broke trying to prove it in court. That isn’t right. We need a national SLAPP law. All US citizens should be protected equally under the law.

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