Finally. COSR/Sanderbeck have finally had to document their reasons for failing to return Piper to her rightful owners. Finally. A date has been set for a PreTrial Hearing. Finally. An impartial hearing PreTrial Hearing in Case No. 2014 CVF 024571 is now set for Oct. 24, 2014 in front of Hon. James P. O’Grady in the Franklin County Municipal Court on Oct. 24, 2014 in Columbus, Ohio. Finally. An impartial hearing will take place.
The story of Veronica Covatch’s attempts to recover her Champion Legacies Pipe Dream, Piper can be found following this link When a Rescue Goes Wrong will continue to be reported in Best in Show Daily as the Case progresses.
The Complaint filed by Covatch and Michele Wilson (co-owners of Piper) against Penny Sanderbeck and COSR (Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue) on July 28th, 2014 followed three months of failed negotiations to get their Champion Sheltie returned by COSR/Sanderbeck. Piper escaped over Easter Weekend in Columbus, OH, and was picked up by the Franklin County Animal Shelter. Piper was then turned over to COSR/Sanderbeck within just a few days of being picked up in spite of having a microchip and against the Shelter’s own policies & practices for holding dogs that are chipped. Even though Covatch contacted COSR/Sanderbeck in less than 24 hrs of Sanderbeck getting Piper, the rescue has repeatedly refused to return the Champion Sheltie to her owners. After three months of attempting to bring Piper home, Covatch and Wilson filed suit against COSR/Sanderbeck in a claim for Replevin and for an unlawful conversion of their property (Piper).
Click Here for Supporting Documents Piper Case# 2014-CVF-024571
COSR/Sanderbeck filed an answer to the Complaint against COSR/Sanderbeck on Sept. 2, 2014, publicly claiming the justification for keeping Piper would be revealed in that answer.
Here’s what has been learned in examining this Answer and highlights of the most salient points from the lawsuit.
The legal process to recover Piper began with an Order for Replevin (Recovery of Property) and a Temporary Restraining Order along with an Order for Recovery prohibiting COSR/Sanderbeck from moving Piper outside of Franklin County, harming, exploiting or breeding Piper issued by Judge David Tyack in Franklin County Municipal Court).
The Court ordered a search of the headquarters of COSR at 2266 Majestic Place, Columbus, OH, to recover Piper but that search was not executed due to the presence of multiple unsecured barking dogs within the residence.
On the same day the search warrant was executed, Sanderbeck was personally served with a copy of the Complaint. At the time of service, COSR/Sanderbeck was given the option of posting a counter-bond to match the Plaintiffs’ Replevin bond of $10,000 (twice the stated value of Piper) within five days to retain possession of the dog pending the outcome of the trial.
Sanderbeck did so by purchasing (for $200) a Surety Bond drawn through Western Surety Company (a subsidiary of CNA Surety of Chicago). As a result of that bond, COSR/Sanderbeck will retain possession of Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream (Piper) until the matter is resolved in Court or unless otherwise instructed by the Court.
Case No. 2014 CVF 024571, Covatch and Wilson v Sanderbeck/COSR has now been assigned to Judge James P. O’Grady for a Pre-Trial Hearing set for October 24, 2014 – over six months from the date Piper was picked up and subsequently turned over to COSR/Sanderbeck.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE COMPLAINT AND ANSWER
The Complaint against COSR and Penny Sanderbeck filed by Attorney Lloyd Cohen consists of 33 Paragraphs consisting of Five Counts. The Complaint also includes multiple documents and affidavits attesting to Covatch and Wilson’s co-ownership of Piper.
COSR/Sanderbeck’s Attorney John Bell, filed an Answer listed below to those 33 Paragraphs along with an additional ten Affirmative Answers (Paragraphs 34 – 43).
The initial Complaint (Five Counts) includes the Replevin, Conversion, Joint and Severable Liability, “Piercing the Corporate Veil” and Damages.
The Complaint alleges that COSR/Sanderbeck illegally converted property belonging to Covatch/Wilson by refusing to return Piper to her co-owners. The Complaint also alleges that COSR is not a true Corporation in that Sanderbeck exercises total and complete control of all aspects of the Corporation in violation of the rules of a Corporation.
Covatch and Wilson seek damages for the loss of the property (Piper) and for the loss of companionship of a unique, living being. The Answering Defendants (COSR/Sanderbeck) don’t dispute Veronica Covatch and Michele Wilson are the plaintiffs in this case and have filed as co-owners. COSR/Sanderbeck also admit that COSR is a non-profit corporation operating in Franklin County, OH and that Sanderbeck resides in Franklin County and that Franklin County has jurisdiction over the lawsuit.
Areas of dispute:
Covatch and Wilson assert ownership of Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream (Piper) and that she is identified by a unique Home Again microchip (#4A3E16420D). COSR/Sanderbeck simply deny that is true without offering any supporting evidence for that denial.
COSR/Sanderbeck also deny that Covatch is both the breeder and owner of Piper’s Dam. The Defendants in their answer simply “DENY” that Covatch is the owner and breeder of Piper. This denial comes despite the inclusion of the dog’s AKC Pedigree, Litter Record, Show records all in the name of co-owners Veronica Covatch and Michele Wilson.
The Complaint states that Piper is uniquely identified through a microchip supported by an affidavit from the veterinarian who implanted the microchip (Dr. Ison of Northern Ohio Animal Healthcare and who maintains the record identifying Michele Wilson as the co-owner). COSR/Sanderbeck again deny Piper is identified as owned by the Plaintiffs, stating there is “a lack of sufficient information to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the alleged matters”.
The Complaint states that “although Piper is property, Piper is also a unique living being and who is entitled not to be treated cruelly.”
COSR/Sanderbeck’s Answer states that “these answering Defendants ADMIT that the dog known as “Piper,” mentioned in the Plaintiffs’ Complaint is considered to be an item of property pursuant to section 955.38 of the Ohio Revised Code, and admit that Ohio law penalizes cruelty to animals and companion animals, but these Answering Defendants DENY each and every one of the other matters alleged in the paragraph numbered (7) of the Plaintiffs’ Complaint.”
The Ohio Code to which the Defendants refer, however, is incorrectly applied.
Section 955.38 Appeal Hearing (cited in the Answering Defendants’ Paragraph 7) in actuality pertains to determination of the value of livestock or a “grade animal” injured or killed by a dog. Ohio Code 955.29 through 955.38 is the method of determining damages owed the owner of livestock by the owner of the dog that injured or killed said livestock or grade animal.
SECOND COUNT – REPLEVIN
Paragraph 10 of the Complaint simply states “On or about April 20, 2014 defendants took possession of Piper, which is property belonging to the co-owners.”
COSR/Sanderbeck ADMIT taking possession of Piper, but “DENY each and every other one of the matters alleged in the paragraph numbered (10) of the Plaintiffs’ Complaint, and they expressly DENY that the dog referenced in the Plaintiff’s Complaint, or any other dog in the possession of either of these Answering Defendants, belongs to either of the Plaintiffs in this action”.
It is in this paragraph, COSR/Sanderbeck’s argument is to deny that Covatch/Wilson own Piper without addressing any of the supporting evidence offered in the Complaint.
When the Complaint states that “on information or belief, Piper is in the actual possession and control of one or both of the defendants (COSR/Sanderbeck) and is located at 2266 Majestic Place Columbus, OH 43232 (the headquarters of COSR)”, the Answer changes format. Instead of the “Answering Defendants”, the Answer now only admits that Piper is in the possession of COSR but not Sanderbeck. That answer also denies that Piper is located at the COSR location of 2266 Majestic Place, Columbus, OH, giving rise to the question of her whereabouts and who actually is harboring this dog.
COSR/Sanderbeck admit refusing to return Piper because they deny that Covatch and Wilson are the owners or co-owners of “said dog” and deny their actions have caused the Plaintiffs to suffer any damages and, if any damages have occurred, those damages were not the fault of COSR/Sanderbeck
FIFTH COUNT – Damages
Paragraph 30-33 states the co-owners have suffered and continue to suffer loss and/or deprived used and companionship of specific unique property and will continue to suffer loss/damage due to the conversion of property.
COSR/Sanderbeck deny that the plaintiffs have suffered any loss or have been deprived of use and companionship simply because they “expressly DENY that the Plaintiffs are the “owners” or “co-owners” of the said dog”.
COSR/Sanderbeck’s AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE
Paragraphs 34 through 37 continue to assert that Covatch and Wilson lack standing “insomuch as they are not the owners of the dog in question, nor are they legally entitled to possession of the said dog”.
Interestingly, Paragraph 38 states “the Plaintiffs’ claims, if any, against these Answering Defendants are barred by the failure to mitigate damages by the Plaintiffs.”
The failure to mitigate damages is defined by the LegalMatch Law Library as follows: “1. When a person suffers damages as a result of a breach of contract, he or she has the legal obligation to minimize the effects and losses resulting from the injury. The duty to mitigate works to deny recovery of any part of damages that could have been reasonably avoided.”
The Defendants do not state what “damages” could have been avoided or what part of damages could be mitigated, especially as COSR/Sanderbeck have had control over Piper throughout the dispute nor do COSR/Sanderbeck offer an explanation as to actual damages COSR/Sanderbeck incurred or how Covatch/Wilson failed to do mitigate such damages.
COSR/Sanderbeck also state the Plaintiffs’ claims, if any, against these Answering Defendants, sounding in conversion or replevin are barred by the fact that “the property in question is a “fungible” item and the Plaintiffs can be made whole by damages in the amount of the reasonable market value of a purebred Shetland Sheepdog (“Sheltie”) which value, upon information and belief, is between Five-Hundred ($500.00) and One-Thousand ($1,000)”.
The legal definition of “fungible”, according to West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2, Copyright 2008, The Gale Group, Inc., fungible is defined as follows:
“A description applied to items of which each unit is identical to every other unit, such as in the case of grain, oil, or flour. Fungible goods are those that can readily be estimated and replaced according to weight, measure, and amount.”
The example of an item being “fungible” is commonly expressed as “a toaster is a toaster”. Living, breathing, unique beings are not interchangeable as a toaster might be or a case of grain or barrel of oil might be. Therefore, value cannot be determined in the same manner as replacing a destroyed shipment of corn.
COSR/Sanderbeck appear to be stating that each purebred Sheltie is interchangeable with any other purebred Sheltie. They make no distinction between a Champion Show Dog and any other Shetland Sheepdog of unknown breeding.
COSR/Sanderbeck also allude to the Plaintiffs as having “unclean hands”. There is no explanation given in their Answer for this claim. While the Answering Defendants also claim any damages assessed are subject to set-off against damages “done to these Answering Defendants in tort, by the Plaintiffs and agents or employees of the Plaintiffs, as will be set forth in detail in the Counterclaim and Third Party Complaint which will be filed separately by these Answering Defendants” as of this writing, no such Counterclaim or Third Party Complaint has been filed.
COSR/Sanderbeck deny microchipping as a means for owner identification.
Sanderbeck denies that she is in control or possession of Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream and that Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream is at the COSR location at 2266 Majestic Place, Columbus, OH.
- • COSR/Sanderbeck deny Covatch is the breeder of Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream.
- • COSR/Sanderbeck deny (repeatedly) that Covatch and Wilson co-own Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream.
- • COSR/Sanderbeck claim that the value of the Champion Show Dog is the same as any other Shetland Sheepdog.
- • COSR/Sanderbeck also reject the Breeder’s Litter Record, the AKC registration, the AKC Championship Certificate, Affidavit of the Veterinarian who implanted the microchip, the Affidavit of the Handler who showed Champion Legacies Pipe Dream and much more.
- • COSR/Sanderbeck have offered no reason for rejecting the documents provided but simply state that Covatch and Wilson do not own Piper without stating what proof does constitute ownership.
- • COSR/Sanderbeck deny damages, but if there are any damages, the Plaintiffs would be made whole by paying the replacement cost of a Sheltie (between $500-$1,000).
- • COSR/Sanderbeck fail to acknowledge the costs incurred by the Plaintiffs exceeding $35,000 to date without this Case ever having reached the Courtroom.
This Case is now set for a PreTrial Hearing on October 24th at 9:00 a.m. before Judge James P. O’Grady in the Franklin County Municipal Court. Best in Show Daily will inform our readers of the result of that Hearing when it occurs.For additional information on this case, go to the following links:
- Four Months and Counting -Piper’s Case Moves to the Courtroom
- If you would like to contribute to the Piper Legal Defense Fund here is the link.
All Supporting Documents for the Case are Found Here
Previous BISD Articles by Edrie Blackwelder:
When A Rescue Goes Wrong
Court Orders Recovery of Piper, the missing Ch. Legacies Pipe Dream
Piper’s Saga Moves to the Courtroom
Breaking News! Rescue Posts $10,000 Bond to Keep From Returning Piper
$200 for a Champion Sheltie? An Update on Piper
Piper’s Saga – The Early Days – A Closer Look
Piper Update – Attorney Bell Breaks His Silence
Veronica Covatch, Piper’s Owner in Her Words
Abuse Allegations Trail COSR Director