Appeals Court Upholds While It Scales Back Damages in Case of Pooch Hit with Baseball Bat

Categories: Court, Grrranimals
Not Romeo but a model
In what's hailed/damned as a first-ever ruling in California, the state's Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana recently ruled a Laguna Niguel man who struck a neighbor's miniature Pinscher with a baseball bat must pay the dog's owners for emotional distress. But the ruling filed Friday represents a huge savings for bat swinger John Meihaus Jr., who had been looking at $430,000 in damages for the act against Romeo the dog. The appeals court scaled that down to $160,000. Meihaus' lawyer still says he may appeal to the California Supreme Court.

This is one of those disputes from Orange County suburbia that provides the chatter for family evenings around the imitation fire log. It actually dates back to 2003, when David and Joyce Plotnik moved in next door to the Miehaus house.

Toss on another Duraflame.

The Plotniks kicked things off by building a 6-foot fence between the properties' common boundary. Miehaus sued, and the Plotniks settled in 2007 by moving the fence back three feet. The pact included provisions dictating all disputes were settled, they would mutual restrain themselves and neither family would slander the other.

Good times were not then had by all, as the Plotniks claimed they started finding trash and yard clippings dumped on their side of the fence, sustaining flips of the bird when Meihaus was out jogging and, in the case of Joyce Plotnik, Meihaus staring her down for 20 minutes at the community pool.

Much of the rancor surrounded 15-pound, 12-inch-tall flea collector Romeo, with even Meihaus admitting he once warned the Plotniks to not "let your dog piss on other people's lawns."

Which leads us to a day in 2009 when David Plotnik went outside with a camera to photograph the latest Meihaus contribution to the back lawn. As he opened a rear gate, Romeo darted out and into the Meihaus yard. Plotnik heard a bark and then squeal and then saw his canine roll "down the slope through the open gate and hit a tree."

Plotnik walked through the gate to see Meihaus, holding a bat. Meihaus responded that Romeo growled and barked at him but denied hitting the dog, saying he only used the bat to "guide" the pooch back to the Plotnik yard. He advised his neighbor to "be more courteous and get your dogs to stop barking."

Later that same day, the sons of Plotnik's neighbors, Greg and John Meihaus III, called Plotnik "fatty" and "punk ass bitch," threatened to "kick [his] ass" and "kill" him and also wondered aloud, "Why don't you suck my dick?" Admitting they said those things, the Meihaus sons claimed Plotnik also insulted them.

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As the plaintiffs' trial attorney in this case, please be advised that the family values their privacy and will not be commenting at this time. My own personal thoughts revolve around the fact that the relationship between a family and their dog can be very special and very unique. Most of us will acknowledge that there is no other domestic animal to which a person can become so attached. Harm or death to the family dog, especially at the hands of another person, will understandably be keenly felt. Under the appropriate facts and circumstances, someone intentionally setting out to cause such harm can now be held fully accountable for the injuries and damages to both the dog and its owners. I'm very comfortable with this decision and am glad for the family.

20ftjesus topcommenter

I've never understood these neighbor disputes.  Why don't they just shoot each other and get it over with?


@20ftjesus  The answer to that is elementary. The duel is no longer protected under U.S. law.


Though some U.S. states do not have any statute or constitutional provision prohibiting duelling, the party causing injury in a duel may be prosecuted under the applicable laws relating to bodily harm or manslaughter and almost always are.


The days when you could slap a man's face, tell him to meet you at dawn, finish him off, and enjoy a nice steak with ketchup on it for lunch is long gone.


Now you have to hire a lawyer, etc... well you get the picture.


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