2004 – Cows vs. Horses

It’s only fitting that this lawsuit would be filed in a court located in Cowtown…

In 2001, Cattle Pros entered into a contract to provide cattle for the National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) Championship Futurity, the Super Stakes and the Summer Spectacular Events over a three-year period of time.  For the first event, the 2001 NCHA Championship Futurity, Cattle Pros was obligated to provide between 10,000-12,000 cattle.  The cattle were required to be between 450-750 pounds in weight and in good health (no blind, injured or physically defective cattle).  In addition, the cattle couldn’t have “too much ear” on them (meaning they must be primarily English breeds) and must be “fresh,” in that they could not have previously been used in a cutting horse event.  (Witnesses testified at trial that cattle which had been “worked” in prior events learned techniques on how to avoid being cut from the herd.) 

Just prior to the first event and after having inspecting less than 20% of the cattle to be provided, the NCHA concluded that Cattle Pros would be unable to provide satisfactory quantity and quality of cattle for the event. Shortly thereafter, NCHA terminated all future contracts with Cattle Pros and made arrangements for another company to supply cattle for next and subsequent events.

Cattle Pros brought suit in the 352nd District Court for breach of contract, seeking damages in excess of $1.5 million.  Summary judgments were presented to Judge Bonnie Sudderth for consideration, but Judge Sudderth denied them, ruling that a fact existed which precluded summary judgment and which would require a jury finding after a full trial on the merits.  The issue at trial was whether or not NCHA had acted within its rights to terminate the contract in advance of the event and whether or not Cattle Pros was able to perform under the terms and conditions of the contract.  Throughout the trial, the judge, the jury and everyone else in the courtroom was provided with a unique glimpse into the world of cutting horses and cutting horse competitions.

At the end of trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the NCHA and awarded the association approximately $250,000 in attorney’s fees.  Judge Bonnie Sudderth accepted the jury’s verdict and signed a judgment in NCHA’s favor.

(Side note:  During trial, one of the attorneys who represented the Cutting Horse Association would frequently whisper to co-counsel so loudly that his voice could be heard several feet away from counsel table. This earned him the nickname among court staff as the “Horse Whisperer.”)


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One response to “2004 – Cows vs. Horses

  1. After the Plaintiffs failed to deliver in accordance with the contract, the Plaintiffs were disputing that the insufficient number cattle they bought were too light-weight for the upcoming cuttings. At this point the case for NCHA had been made and the Plaintiffs were grasping at straws.
    Bob Joy, who has managed the procurement of cattle for NCHA for 30 years, was being pounded on by the Plaintiff attorney. He kept asking Bob what qualified him to judge the cattle’s weight. Bob spent several hours testifying to the years he had ranched, trained horses and competed in cutting, and his many years of experience managing the procurement and delivery of cattle for NCHA.
    Eyes were glazed over. Everyone was sick of that line of pointless questioning.
    The Plaintiff attorney took one more jab at Bob and wanted to know if he had a certificate which certified him as an expert.
    Bob Joy answered him by saying, “Once I guessed the weight of a chicken and missed it by 40 pounds.”
    The courtroom exploded with laughter and the other Plaintiff attorney sitting at the table bowed his head and shook it back and forth.
    I still wonder what the Plaintiffs did with the $1 million that the bank loaned them to buy cattle.

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