Vet Who Unsuccessfully Sued for Defamation Regarding Starving Horses Now Arrested for Animal Cruelty
July 10, 2015
In early 2015, Hanszen Laporte partner Jeffrey L. Dorrell defended a suit brought by Waller County veterinarian Kathie Digilio against three of her neighbors for allegedly “defaming” her. The suit alleged that pictures published on Facebook of Digilio’s allegedly starved, abused horses were “false and misleading.” Neighbors created a page called “Those Without A Voice” and posted a video of the starving horses attempting to raise money to help them.
When they did, Digilio sued in an attempt to silence her critics.
Our client raised the affirmative defense of truth, and prevailed in the suit in March 2015. After introducing into evidence hundreds of pictures of the animals and almost 1000 pages of third-party SPCA investigatory reports documenting Digilio’s abuse of the animals, the court dismissed Digilio’s defamation claims and ordered Digilio to pay our client’s attorney’s fees. The court awarded sanctions under the “anti-SLAPP” law, a statute that protects citizens from groundless suits designed to chill free speech.
At about 2:00 PM on July 10, 2015, a warrant was executed for Digilio’s arrest on animal cruelty charges and officials began seizing her approximately 40 emaciated animals after two appear to have died in the last 10 days. Photographs appeared to show animals struggling woefully to get up, and eventually succumbing to the heat. KHOU Channel 11 News reported the story online as the culmination of a “lengthy investigation.” Digilio’s attorney told reporters at the time of her arrest that Digilio is the “victim of a vendetta.”
This is one of several defamation suits successfully defended by Hanszen Laporte in the last year, which have included successful appeals.