The story of Jeffrey Ely who hit and killed the little 13 lb miniature pincher, Fester, then sued his owners for $1,100 got not only national but international attention and Ely says it also ruined his reputation.
The quickest way to sum up the outcome of the case is that the judge just threw it out!
Judge Gerald Maher heard the case Friday afternoon. Both parties, Jeffrey Ely, the man who hit and killed the little dog, and Daniel Munthe, one of the owners of Fester, the dog who was killed, representing themselves.
Judge Maher said that neither side could prove the other had been negligent so instead of taking the case under advisement he dismissed it.
“You don’t have a legal cause of action,” Maher said. “You never should have been here.”
The testimony was emotional at times, especially when Daniel Munthe’s wife Niki Munthe teared up when recalling retrieving Fester’s body from the road.
“He killed our dog,” she said. “Our dog had a soul. His car didn’t. His car is repairable. A soul is not.”At about 8 p.m. on Jan. 4, Niki Munthe said she was letting her other dog in from outside when Fester squeezed past her legs and escaped. Ely was driving the posted speed limit of 55 mph along Morris Thomas Road, north of Cloquet, at the same time, he said.
When Niki Munthe saw Fester was heading for the road, she said she started yelling at him to return. Her cries intensified when she realized Ely’s car was headed straight for Fester, but Ely didn’t see the mostly black dog until it was too late to slam on his breaks. After hitting Fester, Ely turned around and used his car’s headlights to help the Munthes find his body.
It was only upon driving home that he noticed his temperature gauge was out of whack, Ely said. Fester’s impact on the front end of his 1997 Honda Civic caused pieces of the bumper to lodge into the radiator, he said.
The repairs would cost about $1,000, according to two estimates Ely received. Ely returned to the Munthes’ house with his father two days later and requested help paying for the repairs, which the Munthes refused.
Ely’s liability insurance wouldn’t cover the damages, he said, so he sued the Munthes for $1,029 to cover the cost of his repairs, time he had to take off work and court fees. The Munthes had entered a $2,400 countersuit for the time they had missed from work, as well as costs to cremate Fester and buy a replacement dog. That suit also was dismissed Friday.
Though the city of Cloquet imposes leash laws, they wouldn’t apply in this case because the Munthes live outside city limits. The code is intended for people walking their dogs, said Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande, and say that no person should permit an animal to run at large. Because the Munthes did not intend Fester to run outside unleashed, Lamirande said the code probably wouldn’t apply even if they lived within city limits.
Both parties had originally agreed to settle their case on CBS’ “Judge Joe Brown” after the show’s producers contacted Ely and offered free trips to California and appearance fees. Since the paperwork had not yet gone through at the St. Louis County court, the Munthes were told to appear at their scheduled March court date.
Ely didn’t attend because he thought they still were going on the television show. The case was rescheduled to Friday.
Since the News Tribune first covered the case in Wednesday’s paper, news outlets all over the United States and Canada have picked up the story. Ely said the deluge of coverage has “ruined his reputation.”
“The dog shouldn’t have been there,” he said. “Roads are for cars, not for dogs.”
Ely said he fixed his radiator himself for $120, but doesn’t have money to repair the bumper. He said he doesn’t plan to appeal. (Pine Journal)
The whole story is just sad and rather pathetic. The thing is, accidents happen and this is an accident all the way around. It wasn’t a matter of negligence on the dog owner’s part or even the man who hit the dog.
The victim here is Fester, who lost his life. I feel bad for his owners because I know how bad I would feel if something happened to one of mine. I honestly can’t say I feel too bad for Ely. Normally I would feel bad for someone who hit and killed an animal because if it were me, I would feel terrible but for as terrible as he says he felt, you just really have to wonder.