Iowa group sues United over death of gi­ant rab­bit, Si­mon

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OBITUARIES/NEWS - BY SCOTT MCFETRIDGE

A group of Iowa busi­ness­men filed a law­suit Wed­nes­day against United Air­lines over the death of Si­mon, a gi­ant rab­bit whose life­less body was dis­cov­ered in a ken­nel af­ter a flight from Lon­don to Chicago.

The law­suit comes as United strug­gles to re­pair its im­age af­ter a string of events, in­clud­ing the video­taped forced re­moval of a 69-year-old doc­tor from a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare In­ter­na­tional Air­port and the ban­ning of two young girls from a flight be­cause they were wear­ing leg­gings.

The busi­ness­men filed the law­suit more than three months af­ter air­line work­ers found the con­ti­nen­tal rab­bit dead on April 20. Si­mon had been placed in a United ken­nel at O’Hare while await­ing a con­nect­ing flight to Kansas City, where his new own­ers planned to pick him up.

The law­suit seeks un­spec­i­fied dam­ages to cover the costs of the rab­bit as well as puni­tive dam­ages.

At­tor­ney Guy Cook rep­re­sents the three Des Moine­sarea busi­ness­men who bought Si­mon with the in­ten­tion of show­ing him at the Iowa State Fair and then dis­play­ing him and sell­ing re­lated mer­chan­dise to raise money for the an­nual event.

The law­suit said United was neg­li­gent in the care and trans­porta­tion of Si­mon and that the air­line im­prop­erly cre­mated the rab­bit.

United spokesman Charles Ho­bart re­leased a state­ment say­ing, “We were sad­dened by Si­mon’s death in April. We have re­ceived this com­plaint and are cur­rently re­view­ing it.”

Cook said the busi­ness­men - Mark Oman, Steve Bruere, and Duke Re­ichardt - never in­tended to profit from the rab­bit and that they plan to do­nate any money from the law­suit to a state fair foun­da­tion that funds up­keep at the fair­grounds in Des Moines.

“They’re frus­trated with how United has han­dled this from the start,” Cook said. “None of them stand to ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially from the res­o­lu­tion.”

The law­suit al­leges United has a poor record of trans­port­ing an­i­mals, stat­ing the air­line ac­counted for onethird of all an­i­mal deaths via U.S. air travel in the last five years.

The suit doesn’t ex­plain how the rab­bit died but puts forth sev­eral pos­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing that it was ex­posed to low tem­per­a­tures in the cargo com­part­ment or that dry ice might have been left in the same com­part­ment as the an­i­mal.

When Cook threat­ened le­gal ac­tion in May, Ho­bart said United had reached “a sat­is­fac­tory res­o­lu­tion” with the rab­bit’s breeder, An­nette Ed­wards, in Worces­ter­shire in the United King­dom.

How­ever, the law­suit con­tends the rab­bit had been sold to the Iowa group, which also had ar­ranged and paid for the an­i­mal’s transport to the United States.

Be­fore fly­ing to the U.S., the law­suit states that a vet­eri­nar­ian ex­am­ined Si­mon and found him to be in “good phys­i­cal con­di­tion and fit to travel.”

The law­suit seeks a jury trial in Des Moines.

AP PHOTO

In this May 8 file photo, at­tor­ney Guy Cook speaks a news con­fer­ence while look­ing at a photo of Si­mon, a gi­ant rab­bit that died af­ter fly­ing from the United King­dom to Chicago, in Des Moines, Iowa.

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