In a wonderful and significant victory for pet owners and consumers–including animal advocates, courageous veterinarians, vet technicians and everyone concerned with adverse health affects of pesticide products–Hartz Mountain Corporation was defeated in a jury trial on January 12th in Austin, Texas.
Mr. Frank Bowers, of Austin, sought justice and pursued his legal rights after losing his Olde English Bulldog to Hartz’s flea and tick product “Hartz Ultra Guard Pro” in August of 2007. The trial, case number 015246, was held in Travis County, Precinct 3, presided by Judge Susan Steeg and heard by a jury panel of six. The jury deliberated only 20 minutes and returned the verdict in favor of Mr. Bowers.
This lawsuit was a small claims court action. Small claims court suits can be filed in the location where the damage was incurred versus the manufacturer’s location. The dollar maximum for small claims in Texas is $10,000, but that amount varies state by state.
Mr. Bowers represented himself, he did not hire an attorney. That’s not unusual in small claims court. He also requested a jury trial which is the plaintiff’s prerogative in Texas. It doesn’t have to be a jury trial but that’s what he wanted. Hartz Mountain has an extremely aggressive legal department and they have used tactics of intimidation in an attempt to mitigate action from those that have been hurt by their flea and tick products, or have the audacity to simply speak up about the dangers and risks of their pesticide ingredients. Mr. Bowers, after attempting, unsuccessfully, to resolve his problems with Hartz without legal action, courageously moved forward and sought relief through our justice system. He should be commended and applauded for his courage, tenacity, preparation and determination in taking on a corporation that has much more resources, albeit a documented history of injuring and killing pets.
Hartz’s attorney spoke a great deal about only a very small percentage of animals potentially being adversely impacted, and most of those had some “underlying disease or predisposed condition” that put them at a higher risk. She relied heavily on the EPA registration process protecting consumers and pets, and spoke a lot about the testing and quality processes of Hartz. She also stated that most cases of adverse incidents were caused “by the consumer” in terms of misapplication, wrong product, wrong dosage, dog products applied to cats, products applied to aged animals, sick animals, puppies under age, etc., etc., attempting to place doubt in the jurors minds about whether or not Mr. Bowers had misapplied the product. He did not. He used the product according to Hartz’s directions.
When the verdict was read the Hartz attorney was slack-jawed and stunned…she just couldn’t believe it.
Hartz had 10 business days after the jury verdict to appeal the case and they chose not to do so. Mr. Bowers just recently collected his settlement from Hartz Mountain.
Everyone that has been harmed by Hartz Mountain, Sergeant’s, BioSpot, Zodiac or any other manufacturer or enabler (retailers) of these lethal products should be inspired and encouraged by the actions of Mr. Bowers and a jury of his peers. The jury had no trouble quickly discerning the facts–something the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which registers the products, and major retailers that enable their distribution, have recklessly ignored for many years.
This represents a significant and important victory for companion animals, their guardians and animal advocates everywhere. It’s also a victory for those of us that are concerned about the risks these products pose to infants, children and pregnant women. A jury of average citizens believed that, in fact, these pesticide products can cause serious injury or death, even when used according to manufacturer’s directions, and Hartz and other manufacturers (and potentially those that enable the distribution and sale) are going to be held accountable.
Congratulations to Frank Bowers! Hopefully his example will encourage and inspire others who have been hurt by Hartz Mountain and other manufacturers to take the initiative and seek justice.
Please Google: How to Sue in Small Claims Court (the law for each state varies)
Story Posted by Rich