KANEOHE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) – PETCO has denied that one of its groomers partially cut off the ear of a dog at its Kaneohe store and its lawyers said the wife of a well-known plaintiffs' attorney is exaggerating a "minor" grooming injury to her dog at the same store in hopes of winning a large pay out.
The lawsuit filed in February said a Pomeranian-Maltese mixed dog named Dodo suffered a cut to her ear while being groomed at PETCO's Kaneohe store last summer. The suit claimed someone at PETCO tried to reattach, glue or sew the ear back on.
"I couldn't believe what they did," Dodo's owner Gladys Kapuwai told Hawaii News Now in February. "I started crying because this is our baby, too, you know."
But PETCO's legal response, filed March 15, said Kapuwai's dog had excessive hair growth in its ears because of lack of care. And the company attorneys said her dog was injured after it left PETCO in Kapuwai's care, not at the store.
"Gladys Kapuwai was shown her dog's ears when she picked up her dog, and her dog showed no injury in either ear, either anatomically or behaviorally, including when her dog was playing with the granddaughter at the PETCO store," said attorneys for PETCO, Steven Egesdal and Duane Miyashiro of the law firm Carlsmith Ball, in their written answer to the lawsuit.
"When they make a mistake, instead of apologizing, they blame the pet owner," said attorney Michael Green, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Kapuwai and his wife, Estelle Green, whose dog's tail was nicked by a groomer at the same store.
"She (Kapuwai) must have done it herself or had someone else do it. What are these guys smoking?" Green said. "They're accusing her, or someone she knows in her house, of one day deciding to cut off their pet's ear right after the dog was groomed."
The lawsuit said Estelle Green's dog named Faith, which is also a Pomeranian-Maltese mixed breed, was nicked during grooming at the same Kaneohe PETCO store last year.
PETCO's lawyers admitted the nicking happened, but blame it on the "heavy matting and unkempt condition of the dog's coat."
Green made fun of that argument.
"How dare you complain about the fact, because your dog was unkempt when you brought him to us? It's like your house before the maid comes in, so it's really spotless," Green said. "You should, I guess, clean your dog, get your dog groomed, then take him in for grooming, so they can't make a mistake between the fur and the animal's body."
PETCO's legal filing accuses Green's wife of trying to milk the case.
"This Bentley-driving dog-owner (Estelle Green) repeatedly called the PETCO store within a few days of her dog's grooming and demanded, 'I need to be compensated! I need to be compensated!'" PETCO's lawyers said in their court filing.
"Her marriage to a flamboyant personal injury/criminal defense lawyer (Michael Green) apparently has distorted her world view: she sees the minor nicking of her dog's unkempt tail during its grooming as a lottery ticket or a pay day," PETCO's lawyers wrote.
"Not only is that untrue. It makes me take this kind of personally," Michael Green said.
Lawyers for PETCO are also petitioning to move the case from state court to federal court.
Court cases that involve people from a number of states can be shifted to federal courtrooms, under what's called "diversity." PETCO's lawyers said while the plaintiffs live on Oahu, the company is incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in San Diego, Calif.
"I don't care if they want to try this case on Mars. It doesn't matter to me," Green said.
Federal courts can also take jurisdiction in civil cases where potential damages exceed $75,000.
"This action involves issues that generate a great emotional response, a key factor for large jury awards for punitive damages," PETCO's attorneys wrote in their federal notice of removal filing March 23.
"Factoring the mass media firestorm with PETCO's substantial corporate assets shows the great potential for an award of punitive damages in this action far in excess of $75,000," PETCO's lawyers said.
"I could not thank them enough for telling me how much they think my case is worth. I need to send them something for Christmas. That was a wonderful thing they said," Green added.