PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Owners of a Tillamook County dairy farm say a couple leasing their property stole more than 200 of their cows - as well as tools and equipment - and the landlords are suing their insurer in federal court for failing to cover the losses.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Robert and Janet Chatelain leased with an option to own the Dairy Farm in Cloverdale to a couple in December 2009. At the time, the farm had about 230 milking cows, 166 heifers, two bulls and a shop full of tools needed to run the operation.
Nearly four years later, the owners say they evicted their tenants because of a lease violation. When the owners moved back to their property, they discovered 113 milking cows and 100 heifers were missing.
“That farmhouse was the pride and joy of Mrs. Chatelain,” the couple’s lawyer Frank V. Langfitt argued before a jury Tuesday. “About half the dairy herd - the livelihood of the Chatelains - was gone. ... When the cows are gone, the milk is gone and the income is gone.”
The Chatelains accuse County Mutual of failing to fully investigate their claims of vandalism and property damage before denying their claim in 2015. The insurance company says the couple failed to file property claims for property damage and vandalism.
“This was a civil dispute. This was a breach of a lease that the Chatelains should have handled in state court,” company lawyer Daniel E. Thenell said. “Saying the cows were missing is not the issue. The plaintiffs have to prove the cows were stolen in this policy period. It’s tragic, but it’s not a theft.”
The trial began Tuesday in U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman’s courtroom before a seven-member jury. It’s expected to last through the end of the week.