Unprecedented Settlement Brings Total Paid to Parent Company of
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus to More Than $25 Million
Groups Settle with Circus After Federal Court Determined Case
Was “Groundless and Unreasonable”
VIENNA, Va. – May 15, 2014 – The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), along with their co-defendants, have paid Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus, $15.75 million to settle cases stemming from a lawsuit they brought against Ringling Bros.® over the care of its Asian elephants. This historic settlement payment to Feld Entertainment ends nearly 14 years of litigation between the parties.
“We hope this settlement payment, and the various court decisions that found against these animal rights activists and their attorneys, will deter individuals and organizations from bringing frivolous litigation like this in the future,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Feld Entertainment. “This settlement is a significant milestone for our family-owned business and all the dedicated men and women who care for the Ringling Bros. herd of 42 Asian elephants. We look forward to continuing to set the standard for providing world-class care for all our animals and producing high quality, family entertainment.”
HSUS and animal rights groups the Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA (formerly the Animal Protection Institute), the Wildlife Advocacy Project, the law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, and several current and former attorneys of that firm, paid the settlement for their involvement in the case brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that the U.S. District Court ruled was “frivolous,” “vexatious,” and “groundless and unreasonable from its inception.” Today’s settlement also covers the related Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case that Feld Entertainment filed against the groups after discovering they had paid a plaintiff for his participation in the original lawsuit and then attempted to conceal those payments.
In December 2012, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a former co-defendant in the case, settled its share of the lawsuits by paying Feld Entertainment $9.3 million. Today’s settlement brings the total recovered by Feld Entertainment to more than $25 million in legal fees and expenses, which the company actually spent in defending the ESA case.
“After winning 14 years of litigation, Feld Entertainment has been vindicated. This case was a colossal abuse of the justice system in which the animal rights groups and their lawyers apparently believed the ends justified the means. It also marks the first time in U.S. history where a defendant in an Endangered Species Act case was found entitled to recover attorneys’ fees against the plaintiffs due to the Court’s finding of frivolous, vexatious and unreasonable litigation,” said Feld Entertainment’s legal counsel in this matter, John Simpson, a partner with Norton Rose Fulbright’s Washington, D.C., office. “The total settlement amounts represent recovery of 100 percent of the legal fees Feld Entertainment incurred in defending against the ESA lawsuit.”
In the original ESA lawsuit, Feld Entertainment discovered the animal rights groups and their lawyers had paid over $190,000 to a former circus employee, Tom Rider, to be a “paid plaintiff.” The Court also found that the animal rights groups and their attorneys “sought to conceal the nature, extent and purpose of the payments” during the litigation. Their abuse of the judicial system included the issuance of a false statement under oath by Rider, assisted by his counsel, who the Court found was “the same attorney who was paying him” to participate in the litigation. The Court found in addition to Rider being a “paid plaintiff,” that the lawsuit was “frivolous and vexatious.”