Original Petition1

CAUSE NO.

SARAH BELL AND EDDY BELL Plaintiffs,

--~--------------§ § § § § § § § IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF BASTROP COUNTY, TEXAS

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v.
RICK BARTLETT AND TINA BARTLETT Defendants. PLAINTIFFS'

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__

JUDICIAL DISTRICT

ORIGINAL PETITION

Plaintiffs, Sarah Bell and Eddy Bell, file this original petition and would show the court as follows: SUMMARY OF THE CASE FACTS 1. This is a case of conversion under the Theft Liability Act (with reference to Penal

Code section 31.03, Theft) and for negligence with malice. Moody was a cat who was adopted by Sarah Bell on June 1, 2002. Exhibit P-l (Picture of Moody). Defendants Rick Bartlett and Tina Bartlett live in a house just 3 doors down from Plaintiffs Sarah and Eddy Bell's home. On January 14, 2012, Defendant Rick Bartlett trapped Moody in a cage in the Bartlett front yard, and, together with Tina Bartlett, kept Moody at their house, without consent of Moody's owners, in a cage without food or water for three days. Moody was wearing a collar that was readily visible. Exhibit P-2. The collar had attached a 1Y4-inch round ID tag that said:

Exhibit P-3. Neither Rick nor Tina Bartlett made any attempt to contact the Bell family during this time to return Moody to his home. On January 1ih, about 11 a.m., Rick Bartlett took

Moody in the cage to a Bastrop Animal Control officer, who noticed Moody's collar and ID tag and volunteered to return Moody to the Bell family. Bartlett deceptively told the officer he Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 1 of 11

would return Moody when he had no intention of doing so. Instead, sometime before 4:30 p.m., Rick Bartlett either negligently or deliberately caused Moody to fall about 40 feet to the ground below the Loop 150 bridge over the Colorado River, just a few blocks from the church where Defendant Rick Bartlett was employed. approximately 4:30 p.m. Moody was discovered with injuries by a passerby at

Moody died as a result of internal injuries caused by Rick Bartlett's

actions which caused Plaintiffs damages, the loss of Moody. Plaintiffs intend to prove that Rick Bartlett has previously committed theft of other people's pets, demonstrating Bartlett's

knowledge and intent to commit theft, and that he did so, in this case, with malice, giving rise to punitive damages. Discovery will be conducted under Level 2, pursuant to TRCP 190.3 PARTIES 2. a. Plaintiff Sarah Bell is a resident of Bastrop County and may be served through her

attorney of record in this case. b. Plaintiff Eddy Bell is a resident of Bastrop County and may be served through his

attorney of record in this case. c. Defendant Rick Bartlett is a resident of Bastrop County and may be served at"

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d.

Defendant Tina Bartlett is a resident of Bastrop County and may be served at"

JURISDICTION 3.

& VENUE

The claims in this suit are within the jurisdictional

limits of this Court. Venue is proper

in this Court. FACTS 4. a. The facts stated in Paragraph 1 are incorporated here by reference. After Moody

Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 2 of 11

was discovered

below the bridge, Bastrop office.

Animal

Control was called to the scene and

transported Moody to a veterinarian's

Plaintiffs paid for emergency medical care for

Moody as they watched Moody struggle in vain to survive the fall from the bridge caused by Defendant Rick Bartlett. Moody's In addition to Moody's injury to his lungs and organs from the fall,

pads on his feet were tom loose, apparently from his time in the cage to which confined him for days. Defendant Rick Bartlett had possession and control of

Defendants

Moody at the time Moody was fatally injured, and Plaintiffs will prove by direct evidence or by res ipsa !oguitur, that Defendant Rick Bartlett is liable for the damage to and loss of Moody. b. Moody, like other cats, was permitted under the applicable laws in Bastrop, Texas

to roam free, so long as he was not a "public nuisance animal" as defined by the Bastrop City Code. Moody was loved by the Bell children and other neighborhood children who would play with this very friendly cat when they encountered him in the neighborhood. At no time did

Moody unreasonably annoy any human, including Defendants, nor endanger the life or health of persons or substantially interfere with the rights of citizens to the enjoyment of life or property. There was no excuse for the way Defendants Tina Bartlett or Rick Bartlett (especially) treated Moody. COUNT 1 - THEFT 5. Plaintiffs incorporate facts alleged above in this Count 1. Plaintiffs bring this action

under the Texas Theft Liability Act for an unlawful appropriation of "property" (the unfortunate term Texas law uses to describe members of a family who are pets, such as Moody) under Texas Penal Code section 31.03. 6. 7. Plaintiffs were entitled to possession of Moody, their cat. Defendants unlawfully appropriated Moody in violation of Texas Penal Code section

Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 3 of 11

3I.03(a). 8. Defendants' unlawful appropriation was made with the intent to deprive Plaintiffs of

Moody. 9. Defendants' wrongful conduct caused injury to Plaintiffs, which resulted in actual

damages, the cost of medical care and loss of Moody as member of their family, for which Plaintiffs are entitled to recover actual damages, i. e., Moody's value as established by the jury in this case and additional statutory damages under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 134.005(a)(I). 10. Exemplary Damages. Plaintiffs' injury resulted from Defendants' malice, i.e., with

specific intent to cause substantial injury to Plaintiffs by depriving them of Moody. Therefore, Plaintiffs are entitled to, and Defendants are liable for, exemplary damages under Tex. Civ. Prac.
&

Rem. Code § 4 1.003(a). In particular, when Rick Bartlett refused to permit the Bastrop

Animal Control Officer to return Moody to his home and, instead, caused Moody to fall to his death from the bridge, Defendant Bartlett evidenced the specific intent to permanently deprive Plaintiffs from having Moody ever again. COUNT 2 - NEGLIGENCE 11. Plaintiffs incorporate facts alleged above in this Count 1. By unlawfully taking

possession of Moody and exercising dominion and control over him, Defendants violated Penal Code section 31.03 which prohibits the theft of "property" such as Moody. The statute is designed to protect a class of people to which Plaintiffs belong against the type of injury, the loss of their family pet, suffered by Plaintiffs. The statute is the type that imposes tort liability.

Defendants' violation of the statute was without legal excuse. Defendants' breach of the duty imposed by the statute proximately caused the injury to Plaintiffs which resulted in the damages identified in Count 1 above. Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 4 of 11

12.

By keeping Moody confined in a cage for days without adequate food and water and

without treating his painful, injured pads on his feet, Defendants violated Bastrop City Code 2.06.001(a) places a legal duty on a person in custody of an animal, such as Defendants in this case, to provide the animal with sufficient wholesome adequate treatment. shelter, veterinary and nutritious food, potable water,

care when needed to prevent suffering, and humane care and

The ordinance is designed to protect a class of people to which Plaintiffs belong of Plaintiffs' cat while in

against the type of injury suffered by Plaintiffs, the mistreatment Defendants'

custody. The ordinance is the type that imposes tort liability. Defendants'violation Defendants' breach of the duty imposed by the

of the ordinance was without legal excuse.

ordinance proximately caused the injury to Plaintiffs which resulted in the damages identified in Count 1 above. 13. Plaintiffs expect Defendant Rick Bartlett to claim that he freed Moody from the cage in

the back of the pickup truck Rick Bartlett was driving and that Moody jumped from truck and fell from the bridge. If these facts are established, then Defendant Rick Bartlett violated Bastrop City Code 2.06.007(a) which prohibits a person from transporting an animal in a motor vehicle on public roadways unless the animal is confined in a secure and appropriately sized vented

container or in a manner that prevents the animal "from falling or jumping from the vehicle or otherwise being injured." Plaintiffs The ordinance is designed to protect a class of people to which

belong against the type of injury suffered by Plaintiffs, the injury to and loss of

Plaintiffs' family pet while in the custody of Defendants unsecured in the back of a pickup. The ordinance is the type that imposes tort liability. without legal excuse. Defendants' Defendants' violation of the ordinance was

breach of the duty imposed by the ordinance proximately

caused the injury to Plaintiffs which resulted in the damages identified in Count I above. Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 5 of 11

14.

Exemplary

Damages.

Plaintiffs'

injury resulted from Defendants'

gross negligence,

which entitles Plaintiffs to exemplary damages under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 41.003(a). Defendant Rick Bartlett's actions in transporting Moody in his pickup truck and causing Moody to fall from the bridge exhibited conscious indifference to the extreme degree of risk that Moody would be injured and not returned to the Bell family home. Defendant Rick Bartlett had actual, subjective awareness of the risk but proceeded with a conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others. COUNT 3 - CONVERSION 15. counts, Plaintiffs incorporate facts alleged above in this Count 1. In the alternative to other Defendants converted Moody, Plaintiffs' "property. Plaintiffs owned Moody.

Defendants wrongfully acquired and exercised dominion and control over Moody.

Defendants'

wrongful acts proximately caused injury to Plaintiffs, which resulted in the damages stated in Count 1 above. Plaintiffs seek unliquidated damages within the jurisdictional limits of this court. 16. Exemplary damages. Plaintiffs' injury resulted from Defendants' malice, i.e., with Therefore,

specific intent to cause substantial injury to Plaintiffs by depriving them of Moody.

Plaintiffs are entitled to, and Defendants are liable for, exemplary damages under Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code § 41.003(a).

In particular,

when Rick Bartlett refused to permit the Bastrop

Animal Control Officer to return Moody to his home and, instead, caused Moody to fall to his death from the bridge, Defendant Bartlett evidenced the specific intent to permanently Plaintiffs from having Moody ever again. ATTORNEY'S 17. FEES deprive

Plaintiffs are entitled to recover reasonable and necessary attorney fees under Tex. Civ.

Prac. & Rem. Code § 134.005(b). Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 6 of 11

JURY DEMAND 18. Plaintiffs demand a jury trial and tender the appropriate fee with this petition. CONDITIONS PRECEDENT 19. All conditions precedent to Plaintiffs' claims for relief have been performed or have

occurred. DISCOVERY REQUESTS 20. Pursuant to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiffs serve with this Original Petition

discovery requests, attached to the Petition, on Defendants.

PRAYER
For these reasons, Plaintiffs ask that the court issue citation for Defendants to appear and answer, and that Plaintiffs be awarded a judgment against Defendants for the following: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. Actual damages; Statutory damages Exemplary Damages Prejudgment and post-judgment interest Court costs. Attorney fees. All other relief to which Plaintiffs are entitled.

Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 7 of 11

Respectfully Submitted,

III Aleshire
State BarNo. 24031810 Laura Diamond State Bar No. 24048535 RIGGS ALESHIRE & RAY, P.C. 700 Lavaca St., Suite 920 Austin, Texas 78701 512457-9806 512457-9066 Facsimile Aleshire@R-Alaw.com Christine P. Files Attorney at Law State Bar No. 06990500 702 Chestnut Street - Suite 105 Bastrop County, Texas 78602 phone: 512-303-4631 fax: 512-3034763 email address:filescp@sbcglobal.net ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT Attached: Exhibits P-1 thru P-3 DISCOVERY ATTACHED: The attached discovery is served on Defendants with this Original Petition: Request for Disclosure to Each Defendant Interro gatories Request for Production

Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 8 of 11

CAUSE NO. SARAH BELL AND EDDY BELL Plaintiffs, § § § § § § § §

__ IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF BASTROP COUNTY, TEXAS

v.
RICK BARTLETT AND TINA BARTLETT Defendants.

__

JUDICIAL DISTRICT

PLAINTIFFS' REQUEST FOR DISCLOSURE, INTERROGATORIES, & REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION REQUEST FOR DISCLOSURE Under the authority of the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 194, Plaintiffs request that each Defendant disclose, within 50 days of the service of this request, the information or material described in Rule 194.2(a) through (i). INTERROGATORIES and REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION

Plaintiffs serve these Interrogatories and Requests for Production on each Defendant pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 197 and 196. Each Defendant must timely answer each interrogatory separately, fully, in writing, and under oath. Each Defendant must produce all requested documents (as they are kept in the ordinary course of business or organized and labeled to correspond with categories in each request) for inspection and copying. Each Defendant must serve the answers on Plaintiffs' attorney of record, Bill Aleshire, Riggs & Aleshire, P.C., at 700 Lavaca, Suite 920, Austin, Texas 78701 within fifty (50) days of receipt of this request. Definitions "Identify" when referring to a person means You must state the following: a. The full name. b. The present or last known residential address and residential telephone number. c. The present or last known office address and office telephone number. d. The present occupation, job title, employer, and employer's address at the time of the event or period referred to in each particular interrogatory. e. In the case of any entity, identify the officer, employee, or agent most closely connected with the subject matter of the interrogatory and the officer who is responsible for supervising that officer or employee. "Identify" when referring to a document, means You must state the following: a. The nature (e.g., letter, handwritten note) of the document. b. The title or heading that appears on the document. Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 9 of 11

c. d.

e.

The date of the document and the date of each addendum, supplement, or other addition or change. The identity of the author and of the signer of the document, and of the person on whose behalf or at whose request or direction the document was prepared or delivered. The present location of the document, and the name, address, position or title, and telephone number of the person or persons having custody of the document.

"You" or "Your" refers to the Defendant responding to the Interrogatory. "Your Residence" refers

INTERROGATORY No.l:

Identify any person, other than You and Your Codefendant, who was present at Your Residence between 2:00 p.m. January 14, 2012 and 11:00 a.m., January 17, 2012, including but not limited to any person who performed pest control services at the residence. Produce any service record or invoice for pest control services provided at Your Residence on January 14, 15, 16, or 17,2012. Produce for inspection and testing any cage You had in your possession between 2:00 p.m. January 14,2012 and 5:00 p.m., January 17,2012 in which an animal could be or was confined.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION No.1:

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION No.2:

INTERROGATORY No.2:

Identify any person (other than your attorney or your attorney's employees) with whom you have had any communication (verbally or in writing) since January 17, 2012 concerning the subject matter of, or facts alleged in, this lawsuit, including but not limited to any complaint You have had about a cat( s) at or near Your residence, or Your actions or knowledge regarding the cat (identified in this lawsuit as Moody) that you confined in a cage at any time between January 14,2012 and January 17,2012. Produce a copy of any tape recording, writing, or email containing communication exchanged by and between you, or sent to or received from you and any other person (other than your attorney or your attorney's employees) concerning the subject matter of, or facts alleged in, this lawsuit, i.e., Your actions or knowledge regarding the cat (identified in this lawsuit as Moody) that you confined in a cage at any time between January 14,2012 and January 17,2012. This request specifically includes, but is not limited to, any recording of, writing, or email communication You have had with Ed Dickens (who resides at 310 Schaefer Blvd., Bastrop, Texas 78602), or with Elders and Officials of the Bastrop Christian Church since January 17, 2012 concerning the subject matter of or facts alleged in this lawsuit.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION No.3:

INTERROGATORY No.3:

If you assert that Moody or any other cat, was a nuisance at or near Your Residence in the last 2 years, explain in detail and for each cat the factual basis on which you make that assertion. Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 10 of 11

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION No.4: Produce any picture or video or other documentation that you have of any cat you assert constituted a nuisance at or near Your Residence in the last two years. This request includes a copy of any paper evidencing your surrender of a cat, in the last two years, to any law enforcement agency (such as Bastrop Animal Control) or to any veterinarian. INTERROGATORY No.4: Identify any policy, including the insurance carrier, policy number, and amount of insurance that is applicable to the claims made by Plaintiffs against You in this case. REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION Interrogatory No.4. INTERROGATORY No.5: trial, including Your experts. No.5: Produce the document(s) identified
III

Identify every person whom You expect to call to testify at

INTERROGATORY No.6: Identify by name, address, telephone number and job title, if applicable, all persons answering or providing information for answers to these Interrogatories.

Respectfully Submitted,

6fftt~

Bill Aleshire State BarNo. 24031810 Laura Diamond State Bar No. 24048535 RIGGS ALESHIRE & RAY, P.C. 700 Lavaca St., Suite 920 Austin, Texas 78701 512457-9806 512457-9066 Facsimile Aleshire@R-Alaw.com Christine P. Files Attorney at Law State Bar No. 06990500 702 Chestnut Street - Suite 105 Bastrop County, Texas 78602 phone: 512-303-4631 fax: 512-3034763 email address:filescp@sbcglobal.net ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT

Plaintiffs' Original Petition Page 11 of 11

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