ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s second highest court denied Ruth M. Ferrell’s appeal for a jury trial in the death of her beloved – again.
Morris the cat, Ferrell claimed, suffered an untimely death at the hands of veterinarians at a Bethesda animal hospital. She’s been bent on getting justice for Morris ever since.
The Court of Special Appeals in Maryland on Friday upheld a lower court ruling that ultimately denied Ferrell’s $150,000 lawsuit against Albert C. Benson, owner of Benson Animal Hospital. It was one of several suits that Ferrell has filed unsuccessfully to assuage the loss of her cat and it is at least the fourth time one of her cat cases has reached the appeals court.
Ferrell, an attorney from Bethesda with more than 30 years of experience, represented herself. Her court brief provided a laundry list of accusations:
“This is not a case of ordinary negligence,” Ferrell wrote. “This is a case that involves intentional wrongs, including fraud, deceit, intentional misrepresentation, and discrimination, done with actual malice.”
Benson’s attorneys were pleased with the decision. “I think that’s good for my client, certainly,” said Eric Rhodes, one of the attorneys who defended Benson.
Rhodes declined to comment further until he saw the opinion. Ferrell could not be reached for comment.
The trouble began in September 1994, when Ferrell noticed that Morris had lost a lot of weight. She took him to a veterinarian at Benson’s animal clinic who discovered a lump at the base of the cat’s right ear. It was later diagnosed as cancer. The cat died in November 1995.
Ferrell filed two lawsuits in Montgomery County Circuit Court against several veterinarians and animal hospitals over the Morris’ death.
In the case that the appeals court decided Friday, Ferrell charged that three veterinarians and Benson Animal Hospital in Bethesda, did not properly diagnose and treat the cat’s cancer.
In court papers, Ferrell criticized the hospital for not laying down paper on a small area of the floor for Morris where they observed him walk. She said the veterinarians were retaliating against her because she had sued other veterinarians who treated her other pets. She also accused one of the veterinarians of retaliating against her because she rebuffed his sexual advances.
Benson declined to comment.
Under state law, claims for injuries to a pet are limited to $2,500, so the Montgomery County Circuit Court transferred the lawsuit to a lower court. But Ferrell, who originally sought $150,000, appealed that decision.
In Friday’s opinion, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the circuit court’s decision to transfer the case. “If (Ferrell) believes she is entitled to an award of damages for discrimination, such a claim may be filed with the Human Relations Commission,” the opinion stated.