Obiter Dicta

'Ruff' Justice?

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From Portland, Ore., comes a heart­warming saga of a man who lost his beloved pet and companion–a longhaired German Shepherd named Fremont–when a pet sitter accident­ally allowed it to wander off.

With dogged determination, Doug­las Baker searched for his four-legged friend. He says he cried each day Fremont was missing and screamed daily in frustration.

On the 68th day, a jubilant Baker spotted Fremont crossing a road, and an emotion­al reunion ensued.

But the exhaustive search had taken a toll on Baker, both physically and financially, and he decided that someone was going to pay.

In December, Baker, 45, and his girlfriend, Lisa Klein, filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court against pet sitter Lisa Dunbar and her mother/business partner, Patty. The plaintiffs are seeking damages of $160,000 for negligence, breach of contract and loss of companionship, among other claims.

Baker figures that the hunt for Fre­mont cost him upwards of $60,000, factoring in the newspaper ads, the animal tracker, the “white witch” (whatever that is), the various psychics he consulted, and the failure of the auto repair business that he aban­doned to concentrate on his search. Oh, and $10,000 for the temporary loss of Fremont’s companionship.

Scott Upham, the attorney for the Dunbars, says they made numerous attempts to locate Fremont, and that they do not have insurance coverage to pay the damages Baker and Klein are seeking. Such coverage is not required in Oregon, he says. The Dunbars were reportedly considering barking back at the plaintiffs with a countersuit.

Tap, Click–Legal!

Fast-Fingered Friend Helps With Roadside Registration to Keep Motorist Off the Hook

Sean Leach was aware that the reg­istration sticker on his license plate had expired. But like many of us, he didn’t lose any sleep over it. Then he got his wake-up call. Leach, 36, of Jersey City, N.J., was cruising along in his 1992 Mazda on Route 130 when he saw those dreaded flashing lights in his rearview mirror. A police officer had noticed the expired sticker and was pulling him over.

A New Jersey state stat­ute requires that every motor vehicle intended for use on a public highway be registered, and gives police officers the authority to have unregistered vehicles towed at the owner’s expense.

Leach tried to explain that he just hadn’t gotten around to renewing the registration. The officer’s unsympathetic response was that registration is a very simple process, and that it can even be done online.

That’s all Leach needed to hear.

As the officer returned to his squad car to write a ticket and call for a tow truck, Leach found the renewal form the state had sent him. On the form was an online access code. He then called a friend, who took Leach’s credit card number, access code and other information, and renewed the registration using the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s online service.

By the time the officer returned with the ticket, Leach’s vehicle was legal again. The disbelieving officer confirmed it on his onboard computer and canceled the tow truck. Leach still got the ticket for having an expired registration, but escaped the expense and hassle of having his car towed.

Ain’t technology grand?

Research by Wendell LaGrand

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