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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Juror in alpaca case says he was tortured, not ignorant

Posted By on Tue, May 13, 2008 at 5:36 AM

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The jury believed that owner Jerry Forstner inflated the value of his poisoned alpacas.
In 2003, Magical Farms owner Jerry Forstner sued Purina Mills after the company delivered a contaminated shipment of feed to his alpaca farm, killing off over 100 of his 1,600 alpacas and permanently damaging the health of hundreds more. Forstner, whose Litchfield farm is one of the biggest in North America, claims that Purina Mills owed him over $12 million in damages. He says that was just enough money to cover what he paid for all his dead and damaged animals – not lost profits or potential offspring. But a federal jury didn’t agree… Last year, they awarded Forstner $1.6 million, which he says wasn’t even enough to cover his legal expenses. He claims their decision was grounded in ignorance – and the fact that Purina Mills made a convincing case that he is little more than a greedy man trying to profit off his loss. “Part of the problem was the jury's ignorance of the animals' worth,” Diane Pekarek, a spokesman for the farm, told Scene. "To them it was just livestock, just a bunch of animals, like cows." But one juror doesn’t appreciate that assessment. After reading our story about the incident, juror David Swails contacted Scene. “It enraged me reading your article,” Swails says. “[Forstner] is just a piece of work in my estimation. He always calls us ignorant and it makes my blood boil, because we took our time. We went through all the evidence, trying to substantiate his claims. It was not easy what we were asked to do, and he makes us sound like a bunch of idiots.” Swails says that Forstner never supplied receipts for the alpacas he bought and sold. He also claims that through the cross-examination of Forstner’s wife, it was revealed that the farm was still showing and breeding its ill animals. “There were no sales that came close to the amount they wanted,” Swails says. “They were also trying to say that the ill animals were a total loss, but it all came out in the testimony that the animals went on to live normal, healthy lives. Their poisoning was akin to little more than a case of food poisoning.” Still, Forstner is appealing the verdict, and his wife is going to Medina County court against Purina Mills for those animals that weren’t part of the federal suit. “My heart goes out to the 12 unfortunate jurors that will be tortured in this next trial,” Swails says. “It was three and a half weeks of sheer agony.” -- Denise Grollmus
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