Trials & Litigation

Lawsuit Costs Furrier $97K in Attorney Fees for Animal Rights Protesters

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A well-known furrier in Portland, Ore., has been ordered by a federal judge to pay nearly $100,000 in legal fees to protesters who demonstrated aggressively outside its downtown store for years, allegedly driving the longtime merchant out of business.

Although Schumacher Furs & Outerwear may well have had legitimate complaints against some of the protesters and the way Portland police handled the situation, the store’s litigation against two animal rights groups alleging criminal conduct crossed the line. Because it named as defendants two groups and one individual against whom Schumacher had insufficient evidence to prove its case, U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman found that the furrier had abused the litigation system. He ordered the store and owner Gregg Schumacher to reimburse the three defendants for their attorney fees, amounting to a total of about $97,000, the Oregonian reports.

“Although the (Schumachers) may have had meritorious claims against people whose names they did not know, or even against the city of Portland,” Mosman wrote, “they sued people against whom they had no evidence for $6.6 million, sought to restrict their First Amendment rights, and disparaged their reputations with accusations of criminal conduct, terrorist affiliations and responsibility for ‘shutting down’ a business whose financial solvency was questionable before the protesting activities began.”

A spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one of the two defendant groups, hailed the decision as a victory for the First Amendment-based right of citizen protest.

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