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Titlesort descending Summary

These are the state's veterinary practice laws.  Among the provisions include licensing requirements, laws concerning the state veterinary board, veterinary records laws, and the laws governing disciplinary actions for impaired or incompetent practitioners.

Peterson v. Eichhorn

In this Montana case, the plaintiff brought claims for negligence, strict liability for abnormally dangerous domestic animal, and punitive damages against the defendant horse owner. She alleged that defendant's horse bit her while she was on land defendant used for pasturing the horse that adjoined her land. After the lower court granted summary judgment to the defendant, the plaintiff appealed. The Supreme Court held that even though the Montana Supreme Court has not adopted the provision of the Second Restatement of Torts regarding an animal owner's strict liability for injury caused by an abnormally dangerous domestic animal, this was not the test case to do it. The court found that Peterson failed to produce any evidence or legal authority that the horse's biting constituted a “dangerous propensity abnormal to her class” to bring her under the Restatement's strict liability.

State v. Chilinski After a call reporting the poor health of over 100 dogs at a large Malamute breeding operation and the recruitment of the Humane Society of the United States, including several volunteers, to help execute a warrant, defendant was charged with one misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals and 91 counts of felony cruelty to animals pursuant to § 45–8–211, MCA. Defendant was convicted by a jury of 91 counts of animal cruelty and sentenced to the Department of Corrections for a total of 30 years with 25 years suspended. A prohibition from possessing any animals while on probation was also imposed on the defendant, as well as an order to forfeit every seized dog and all puppies born after the execution of the warrant. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Montana, defendant argued the District Court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search on Fourth Amendment grounds. The Supreme Court held, however, that the search warrant authorizing seizure of “any and all dogs” and “any and all records pertaining to dogs” was not impermissibly overbroad; that the participation by civilian volunteers and Humane Society personnel in execution the warrant was not prohibited by the Fourth Amendment or the Montana Constitution; and that the use of civilian volunteers to assist in execution of search did not violate defendant's right to privacy. The Supreme Court therefore held that the lower court did not err in denying the motion to suppress the evidence. Next, the defendant argued that the District Court abused its discretion when it improperly determined that the results of an investigation of his kennels in 2009 were irrelevant pursuant to M.R. Evid. 403. The court, however, agreed with the District Court, despite defendant's claim that 2009 inspection would show that the poor conditions of the kennels and the dogs in 2011 were justified due to economic hardship and health issues. Finally, defendant argued that the District Court was not authorized to order forfeiture of the defendant’s dogs that were not identified as victims of animal cruelty. The Supreme Court, however, held that the statute authorizing forfeiture of “any animal affected” as part of sentence for animal cruelty did not limit forfeiture of defendant's dogs to only those that served as basis for underlying charges, nor did it implicate the defendant's right to jury trial under the Apprendi case. The Supreme Court therefore held that the District Court did not abuse its discretion in requiring the defendant to forfeit all of his dogs. The lower court’s decision was affirmed.
State v. Criswell

Defendants were convicted of aggravated animal cruelty for subjecting ten or more animals (cats) to mistreatment or neglect by confining them in a cruel manner and/or failing to provide adequate food and water. On appeal, defendants raise two main issues: (1) whether the State presented sufficient evidence and (2) whether the District Court abused its discretion in denying their motions for mistrial. As to the sufficiency argument, the Supreme Court held that the testimony from veterinary experts as well as the individuals involved in the rescue of the 400-plus cats removed from the three travel trailers was sufficient. On the mistrial issue, the Supreme Court agreed with the District Court that the remarks were improper. However, there was no abuse of discretion by the trial court's ruling that the comments were not so egregious to render the jury incapable of weighing the evidence fairly.

State v. Shook

This is the Montana Supreme Court's denial of appellant Shook's petition for rehearing in State v. Shook, 313 Mont. 347 (2002).

State v. Shook (Unpublished)

Defendant Shook (a non-tribal member) shot and killed a whitetail buck on private property within the exterior boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation. Under Wildlife and Parks Commission hunting regulations, big game hunting privileges on Indian Reservations are limited to tribal members only, thereby closing the hunting season to non-tribal members.  On appeal, Shook contended that the regulation was a violation of equal protection because it discriminated based on race.  The court disagreed, finding the classification was political rather than racial because it was established through treaty with the federal government and recognized the unique federal obligation toward Indians.  Thus, the court found the regulation was an "entirely rational" means to preserve wildlife populations for hunting by Indians. 

Zimmerman v. Robertson

Plaintiff horse owner sought review of a judgment by the District Court of Yellowstone County, Thirteenth Judicial District (Montana), which entered a directed verdict in favor of defendant veterinarian on the owner's claims of professional negligence. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that the owner was required to prove the veterinarian's negligence by expert testimony, and that he failed to do so.  In addition, the court The court found that the "defendant's admissions" exception to the expert testimony requirement did not apply because the veterinarian did not admit that he deviated from the standard of care.

Zimmerman v. Robertson

Defendant-veterinarian was contracted to castrate plaintiff’s horse. Post-surgical care resulted in a fatal infection of the horse.  The court found that, indeed, expert testimony is required in malpractice cases, as negligence cannot be inferred from the existence of a loss.  The court disagreed with plaintiff that defendant’s own "admissions" in his testimony at trial provided sufficient evidence of deviation from the standard of care to withstand a directed verdict by defendant.  As to plaintiff’s argument regarding a lack of informed consent, the court noted that a medical malpractice claim premised on a theory of lack of informed consent is a separate cause of action rather than an "element" in an otherwise specifically alleged claim of professional negligence.