AUBURN — A judge has rejected a Lisbon woman’s counterclaim of defamation in connection to a horse she had euthanized last year.

Jayne and Daniel Buck Soules of Lisbon had sought to dismiss the action filed against them by Lisbon Falls businesswoman and stable owner Lisa Bosse. The judge granted their motion last week.

Bosse’s legal action centered on a number of public statements the Souleses had made about their anger and desire to have their retired race horse, Knotty, returned to them.

The dispute erupted in 2013, after Bosse had contacted the Souleses to tell them that Knotty would have to be euthanized because of his failing health. They had given Bosse ownership of their daughter’s horse when she left home to go to college.

The Souleses later objected to Bosse’s plans to have the horse put down by a veterinarian because of multiple chronic health problems. Bosse said she had feared the horse might fall during the winter and perish due to being unable to regain his footing.

The couple had filed an injunction to prevent Bosse from carrying out her plan.

Advertisement

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice MaryGay Kennedy granted a temporary restraining order late in 2013 to keep the animal alive so it could be evaluated by a veterinarian, which was agreed to by both parties. At the time, the court had ordered the animal to remain at Bosse’s RiverView Farm and for the Souleses to pay for treatment of Lyme disease and vitamin deficiency.

About a month later, the veterinarian recommended that the 20-year-old Standardbred gelding be euthanized because his condition wasn’t likely to improve.

But the legal matter continued in court when Bosse filed a counterclaim for defamation, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress and unjust enrichment.

Curtis Webber, attorney for the Souleses, had argued in court that his clients had been merely exercising their First Amendment rights.

David Van Dyke, attorney for Bosse, had said that “only in America can someone give a horse to someone only to avoid maintenance fees,” and then when dissatisfied with that horse’s care, “go to the press” to complain about it.

He said he couldn’t determine whether the Souleses’ statements about Bosse were negligent or intentional, but that five of 11 public statements they made were defamatory and damaging to her. In particular, he said, was an October 2013 affidavit of Jayne Soules, detailing their suspicion that Bosse refused to return the animal “because she intends to sell the horse meat” after the horse was put down. Van Dyke said that assertion was “not true” and placed his client in an unfavorable light in the public’s eyes.

Advertisement

In her nine-page order, Kennedy wrote that Bosse had failed to provide an “adequate factual basis for her assertions” that the Souleses’ statements and communications were “harmful to her reputation, business and profession.”

Kennedy wrote that Bosse “has not shown that she suffered emotional distress,” by describing “the symptoms or impact or her emotional distress or provide any factual evidence of her distress.”

Bosse’s claim of unjust enrichment amounts, if at all, to the couple’s emotional benefit realized by the prolonged life of the the horse they used to own.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.