An Alaskan Superior Court judge this week upheld a judgment by a Tok, Alaska jury that held biologist Gordon Haber and Friends of Animals liable for the release of a black wolf from a trap in 1997.
Haber released the wolf from a trap owned by Eugene Johnson; the wolf died several weeks later from injuries related to wire that Haber did not remove from the animal before releasing it.
At the time Haber released the animal, he was conducting research paid for by Friends of Animals. After Haber began distributing a videotape of the wolf’s release, Johnson sued both him and Friends of Animals claiming that the release violated Alaska state law.
In 2000, a jury agreed, awarding Johnson $40,000 in damages from Haber and $150,000 from Friends of Animals. They both appealed that verdict, but Superior Court Judge Richard Savell upheld the jury’s decision while at the same time agreeing that it had overstepped how much it could award in the case.
Savell reduced the award against Friends of Animals to $100,000 and holds Haber liable for about $79,000 in damages, but essentially permits Johnson’s estate (the trapper died in June 2002) to collect from only one defendant.
Neither Haber nor Friends of Animals has said whether it will appeal Savill’s ruling.
Man who freed wolf loses. Associated Press, September 8, 2002.