The lawsuit over the disputed sale of $2.1 million broodmare Love Me Only being heard by a jury in Fayette Country Circuit Court in Lexington, Ky., figured to come down to a battle of the expert witnesses. But in testimony on the trial's second day on Tuesday, the battle got personal when Dr. Bryan Fraley, testifying on behalf of plaintiffs Frank and Jane Lyon, said his former mentor, Dr. Ric Redden, expected to be called as an expert witness for the defense, made “threatening and bullying statements” in an effort to get Fraley to change his diagnosis that Love Me Only was suffering from chronic laminitis when she sold at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Redden has yet to testify in the case in which the Lyons' Summer Wind Farm sued consignor Eaton Sales, Ashford Stud and Love Me Only's owners (entities owned by Coolmore's John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith). The Lyons allege they were defrauded by the defendants, saying they masked Love Me Only's laminitic condition with the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone on the Keeneland sale grounds and withheld Love Me Only's complete breeding information. The 3-year-old half sister to Giant's Causeway sold in-foal to European Horse of the Year Sea the Stars on a May 3 cover, but a February 2011 mating to Danehill Dancer was withheld from the Keeneland sale entry form.
Fraley, who operates Fraley Equine Podiatry in affiliation with Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, was the last of six witnesses called by attorneys for the Lyons to testify on the trial's second day. He followed Summer Wind Farm manager Mark Moloney, Tina Keith (who works with the farm's broodmares), laminitis authority Dr. William Moyer, Dr. Scott Pierce (who does pre-sale work for the Lyons) and Dr. Scott Morrison (whose deposition was read in absence of his testimony).
Morrison, a specialist in podiatry at Rood and Riddle, was the first veterinarian to inspect Love Me Only when she exhibited lameness days after being sold. Recognizing that her purchase could lead to a dispute between buyer and sellers, Morrison opted out as attending veterinarian, citing a significant business relationship with Coolmore in Ireland and their Kentucky satellite farm, Ashford Stud.
Pierce, also with Rood and Riddle, was brought in to tend to the mare and wrote in a report that Love Me Only was “walking like a laminitic horse.” Subsquent X-rays led Pierce to conclude there were “telltale radiographic signs” of laminitis and brought in Fraley to treat her.
Fraley concluded after a thorough clinical evaluation and examination of X-rays that Love Me Only was suffering from chronic laminitis and said he was “concerned about her longevity as a broodmare.” He estimated the onset of the often fatal disease was eight weeks prior to the November sale – approximately the time that Love Me Only shipped from Ireland to Ashford Stud in Kentucky.
Fraley's diagnosis confirmed what Moyer had told jurors earlier in the day. “There is no question,” said Moyer, a former president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners who is now with Texas A&M University. “She had chronic laminitis.” Moyer said the condition he saw in radiographs of Love Me Only's feet would take “a minimum of 30 days – more likely 60 to 90 days” to occur.
Moyer added that phenylbutazone “absolutely” can mask the pain and lameness associated with laminitis. “Clearly, someone must have seen a problem,” Moyer added. “Why give them Butazolidin?”
But after a long day of testimony about Love Me Only's post-sale condition, the clinical signs of laminitis and the differences between acute and chronic versions of the disease, it was Fraley's comments about Redden that seemed to shock the courtroom.
Saying he “feels strongly this is a chronically laminitic horse,” Fraley testified that he was approached by Redden to meet with him and Morrison to discuss the case. Redden, a pioneer of equine podiatry, previously worked for Coolmore and Ashford Stud, a role that Morrison now fills. Fraley was advised by Summer Wind's connections not to talk with Redden because of the litigation.
“I phoned him to let him know I can't discuss the case,” said Fraley, adding that Redden became “threatening and bullying” and that the conflict has “permanently damaged” a friendship that began years ago with Redden serving as Fraley's mentor.
“I remember that phone call very clearly, and I've relived it every day,” Fraley said. “He (Redden) wanted me to change my diagnosis from chronic laminitis to coronitis. And now it's a stone bruise.
“I know what I heard. I know it was not ethical.”
The trial continues on Wednesday.
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