Court denies PETA's motion for default judgment in Missouri Primate Foundation case

By Takesha Thomas | Dec 1, 2018

ST. LOUIS – A federal district court has denied requests by both the Missouri Primate Foundation and PETA in a case involving chimpanzees.

On Nov. 26, U.S. District Judge Catherine D. Perry denied several motions by both parties, including a motion for default judgment, a motion for sanctions for spoliation of evidence, and a motion to compel inspection of a chimpanzee named Joey or in the alternative for default judgment.

The case, which was heard in U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division, involves a dispute over PETA's attempt to inspect the Missouri Primate Foundation facilities that house chimpanzees. The facility was housed inside the home of Connie Braun Casey. 

In its motion for entry of default judgement, PETA argued that Casey "failed to renew its (Missouri Primate Foundation) fictitious name registration with the Missouri Secretary of State," thus rendering the corporation in default.

Perry ruled in part Casey's "failure to re-register the fictitious name is not sufficient to find that she is an alter ego of the corporation or that she should be estopped from defending herself."

PETA also argued that Casey's act of moving the chimpanzees out of the facility constituted spoliation of the evidence. But Perry found that there was no evidence that any of the chimpanzees had been destroyed.

"The USDA transfer document as to some of the chimpanzees who have been moved to the DeYoung Family Zoo in Michigan indicates that they were in excellent condition when they were moved. There are factual disputes about exactly where all of the chimpanzees are, and there is no evidence about the conditions under which they are currently being held. ... That does not, mean, however, that spoliation has actually occurred," Perry wrote.

PETA has been attempting to retrieve the animals for some time now. According to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, PETA notified the Missouri Primate Foundation in 2016 that it planned to sue "over claims that at least 16 chimps were being housed at the facility in 'filthy, virtually barren enclosures' without adequate space to climb and roam. The group said it had been contacted by a former volunteer who had a video of conditions there."

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