Roy Bedichek, a favorite author of mine, tells a story in his book
"Karankaway Country' that needs your judicious opinion. The question is "Was Justice Served"?
This story occurred in Morden, Manitoba back in the 1930s and involves a man who lived in the only hotel in town and was the single father of an 11 year old boy. This boy went to a circus or carnival that came through town and for some service to an old man there was given a pet raccoon which was very tame and docile and which the boy carried proudly back to the hotel to show his father. The father told the boy that there was no way that they could keep a pet raccoon at the hotel and was about to tell him that he had to return it to the circus when the owner of the hotel intervened and told the man that it would be perfectly all right for the boy to keep it as far as he was concerned and that it could stay in a doghouse out behind the Hotel and that he did not object to the boy showing the coon to his other guests since it seemed to be so tame.
The boy was delighted and the coon already had a collar and the father bought a length of light chain to keep him chained in the doghouse at night and during the day the boy would lead the raccoon around and it would greet the other guests in a pleasant manner and everyone was happy except the hotel porter. Every time the raccoon was near the porter it would snarl and growl and made it obvious that he did not favor the porter.
After a few days a great commotion occurred early one morning and everyone ran out of the hotel into the small patio behind it to see the porter rapidly beating the coon to death with a broom stick. The hotel owner stopped him and inquired as to why he was tormenting the raccoon. The porter said that he and the raccoon just didn't like each other and he was going to kill it. The owner admonished him to leave the raccoon alone and the father admonished the boy to keep the raccoon away from the porter.
After a few days careful nursing the raccoon recovered and everyone was surprised one morning to see the raccoon come aimiably into the bar and walk around sniffing boots and shoes and greeting his friends. He had evidently slipped his chain because his collar was missing. About this time the porter walked into the bar and the raccoon hit him hard enough to knock him down and clamped his teeth on the porter's right index finger. By the time someone got into the kitchen and grabbed a
meat cleaver the coon had bitten off the distal digit of the forefinger and was chewing on the Porter's thumb. The meat cleaver killed him----the raccoon that is.
The porter sued the boys father for the loss of part of his forefinger and his thumb (it required amputation) and was awarded a damage of $500.
Now it doesn't seem to me that justice was done. What do you think?
I think the Porter probably should've gotten more money. It was the fault of the boy and his father that the coon wasn't properly tied up and/or supervised and that such an event was allowed to occur. Now the father and son probably have some rights on a counter suit for the abuse the Porter laid out to the coon, but in my opinion animal abuse is not near as bad as having a finger bit off bit an animal, so the Porter should not get full compensation for his injury, but I think he should get more than $500.
but the problem is that the animal didn't bite the finger off while it was being beat, it was a substantial period of time later and the porter had not on that occasion done anything to provoke it. Point being it was the negligence on the owners part that caused the loss of finger, not the cruelty of the Porter.
There's several things that come to my mind. I'm just gonna toss 'em out in no particular order:
1) In 1930, $500 was a fairly sizable chunk o' change.
2) Like it or not, for most intents and purposes, animals are not afforded the same level of protection, etc. under the law as are humans. They are considered personalty.
3) The story makes no mention whether the province, or town, or both, had any applicable statute/ordinance/law pertaining to owner liability for harboring wild animals.
4) I'm unable to determine from the story whether it was a case decided purely under common-law negligence. If it was, my guess is the trier-of-fact determined the owner of the coon had a duty to exercise reasonable care in its confinement; that said duty of care was breached; and that said breach was the "proximate cause" of the porter's injuries.
5) To get this into proper perspective, pretend for a moment that the facts are all the same with one exception ~ the racoon is a human. The subsequent retaliation by the human/racoon did not constitute self-defense, for the danger of the previous incident had long since passed, i.e., it was no longer immediate.
Yes, although I would've loved to have given the porter a good ass-whoopin' fer what he did to the racoon, the decision was correct from what little I have here. In this day and age (I have no idea about 1930's Canada), we can also take comfort that the porter could most likely be charged with a crime for his cruelty to the racoon. Additionally, on the civil side he could conceivably be monetarily liable to the owner for any damages to the personalty, being said coon. Lastly, it is not inconceivable that the porter's treatment of the racoon was so wilful and malicious that the trier-of-fact could be persuaded to make an example of the porter by assessing punitive damages.
" Future years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal background of countless minor scenes and interiors, (not the official surface courteousness of the Generals, not the few great battles) of the Secession war; and it is best they should notóthe real war will never get in the books." ~ Walt Whitman
Well, tell me something. If someone beat you nearly to death, but you were saved, would it be reasonable to expect you to simply forgive and forget and move on?
I can't say much for legally, but at least in terms of justice, I think the porter had it coming to him, and I don't see any reason why the owners should have to pay.
That, or the owners should have the right to sue him for damage of property, animal cruelty (or whatnot) and of course emotional damage for the poor kid to have his pet beaten cruelly for no reason, and then killed for trying to get back at the bastard who did it.
Sorry, I think the porter's totally in the wrong here, regardless of legality.
quote:Originally posted by Roshigoth That, or the owners should have the right to sue him for damage of property, animal cruelty (or whatnot) and of course emotional damage for the poor kid to have his pet beaten cruelly for no reason, and then killed for trying to get back at the bastard who did it.
I agree with this point Rosh, but like I said, I think the amount the Porter is entitled to is greater than the amount the kid and his dad are entitled to.
Thanks for mentioning the money issue Jeb, I had fogot about that in my original post. My updated opninion is that I believe the priginal decision to be either just, or close to it.
quote:Originally posted by Roshigoth . . . Like I said.. I don't care about legality in this case.. I was more worried about justice.
I certainly understand how y'feel, Cheesemeister. Keep in mind that the aim of the law is to, in fact, serve justice. Is justice always perfect? No. In my way of thinking, it simply strives to find balance.
One other thing -- It is very, very common for people to encounter difficulty keeping "legal" separate and distinct from "moral".
*edited because I forgot to put "Amen" in original post, because Joeycat was givin' me a backrub and my eyes wuz rolled back in my head; in fact, I wuz nearly outta my head.
Last edited by J E B Stuart on 05-02-2002 at 04:07 AM
Where did you take your law degree J.E.B.? Your point number 4 above is right on the mark. Under common law the owner of an animal in the absence of defining statute is indeed responsible for the damage the animal causes to another person or that person's property.
In Texas up until about 1948 or so if you were driving down the road and hit a $40,000 dollar prize bull and killed it you were just out $40,000 because the situation was removed from common law by a statute that said that "farm and ranch livestock" had the right of way on Texas roads. After 1948 if you hit that bull you could sue the owner of the bull for damage to your Lexus "if you had used usual care and diligence " to avoid hitting it. Course that law did not apply to coons.
Bedichek did not tell the coon story for a legal point but rather to illustrate that the coon can cause damage when it attacks a human. Most old boar coons are pretty damn testy too.
Yeah, but I thought the question was whether I thought justice was served, not whether the law was correctly interpreted. In my mind, the coon exacted justice, and the judge fulfilled the letter of the law. Had the judge not done so, there would be legal redress for that. Law and justice fall under somewhat the same rubric as love and sex. They're great when they happen together, but they're not the same thing by definition.
So yeah, justice was done in the coon's eyes, so long as he weren't put down after that. And even then, at least he got some measure of satisfaction, and he died good, I'm sure.
I had an opportunity as a child of about four years old to be involved in an experience similar to that described by Bedichek. I don't tell the story often because it describes a type of cruelty I don't go for but it was not uncommon then.
My father acquired from some source a pet badger which was tame enough for me to play with him but he frequently made me cry with his teeth or his claws. Dad kept the badger to engage in fights with dogs and Dad won a lot of money betting on his badger. The fight was to the death and was held in a petty small enclosed space with a concrete floor. I only saw a couple of the fights. The badger has the unique capability among animals to turn within its skin to a great degree and dogs seemed to have the tendancy to attack it at the back of the neck and the badger would turn and grab a dog that thought it was out of the range of the badgers teeth and claws. Dad was very selective about how big a dog he would allow to fight his badger.
We had a model A sports roadster at the time and the badger would ride right behind Dad's back on the little shelf that existed in that car. I do not remember why the badger disappeared but it may have had something to do with the fact that my mother hated it and she was a very quietly forceful woman.