RACINE — Jurors deliberated for about 2½ hours on Friday before finding an Ohio man and his deer farm did have monopoly power over a prized buck’s semen, but essentially didn’t do anything to prevent a Kenosha County genetics firm from selling that product.
At the end of the five-day civil trial, jurors awarded no monetary damages to Dennis Gourley or Advanced Genetics Inc., a company created specifically for the purpose of selling specimens from a deer farming company’s buck, named Rolex. Gourley is a veterinarian who also performs breeding services, such as artificial inseminations in various animals.
Advanced Genetics Inc., based in the Town of Paris, filed a lawsuit in August 2013 in Racine County Circuit Court against Waldvogel Whitetails and Madison County, Ohio, deer farmer Curt D. Waldvogel. Waldvogel Whitetails is a whitetail deer farm. The company sells breeding stock, while trying to improve offspring to produce male deer, known as bucks, with the big antlers and other characteristics often favored by hunters and game farms.
“I’m thrilled. It was the way it should have been because it was this close to being (a) frivolous (lawsuit),” Curt Waldvogel said after the verdict was read aloud in the courtroom. “Dr. Gourley did the AI (artificial insemination) to produce that deer (Rolex).”
The genetics firm sued the deer farming company and Curt Waldvogel alleging unreasonable restraint of trade and interference with contractual relationships. According to the lawsuit, having quick access to the Rolex product was necessary for Gourley when providing breeding services for clients who wanted that.
The lawsuit alleges that Curt Waldvogel and his company had a monopoly on their deer’s product “and exerted monopolistic control over the sales of the product through their pricing structure” and by restricting the genetics firm’s access to their own inventory of Rolex specimens. Devine said Waldvogel didn’t want Gourley to compete with him while the market was hot for Rolex product, and Gourley’s business suffered financially as a result.
Gourley alleged that Curt Waldvogel drafted an agreement that Gourley couldn’t sell the product for less than 80 to 85 percent of the current list price.
During closing arguments on Friday, Gourley’s attorney, Thomas Devine, said Advanced Genetics abided by that agreement, and then Curt Waldvogel set the market price at $10,000 for specimens — for which Waldvogel’s company would receive a cut.
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“That was not a market that was available to us,” Devine told jurors, adding Gourley instead would have sold the specimens for between $4,000 and $7,500. If no such agreement existed, “why wouldn’t he sell it? Because he promised not to sell it for less than 85 percent (of the) farm price – or $10,000. (Gourley) would have sold it because no one in their right mind would sit on Rolex semen in that market and take a loss.”
Gourley and the genetics firm alleged they took a $370,000 hit, but the lawsuit also sought $1.11 million in damages plus court costs, legal fees and other untotaled losses.
But during closing arguments, defense attorney Todd Terry argued the situation was similar to one in which he owns a dog that has puppies. He said he would control the sale price of those puppies.
“Suddenly now I’m a monopoly?” he asked jurors.
A single juror disagreed with the other 11 jurors’ decision that Waldvogel and his company didn’t maintain a monopoly by engaging in restrictive or exclusionary acts. That same juror said he also disagreed with the others finding that Waldvogel did not interfere with the genetics firm’s prospective contracts with other product buyers.
After the verdict, Devine said: “We’re very disappointed. At this point there probably isn’t much of a market left for the product that they (Advanced Genetics) have (in storage). They have 68 straws (of Rolex inventory) at the sire service (in Michigan).”
Curt Waldvogel said he disagreed with jurors’ decision that he had “monopoly power” over the product.
“Every one of my customers is a competitor,” he told The Journal Times.