Court Halts Suit Against Two Indiana Trainers

Decision is part of Ed Martin Jr.'s larger civil litigation against the IHRC.

A U.S. district court has thrown out litigation brought by former Thoroughbred owner/breeder Ed Martin Jr. against trainers Randy Klopp and Joe Davis.

In April 2012 Martin filed a civil complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana accusing the trainers, both members of the Indiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, of defamation and conspiracy. In 2010, Klopp and Davis forwarded information about alleged abuse and neglect of Martin's horses at his Florida farm. Martin says an investigation exonerated him of those accusations later in 2010.

On Jan. 28, Judge Tanya Walton Pratt determined that the two trainers could not have committed defamation when they forwarded allegations of abuse and neglect to the Indiana Horse Racing Commission because licensed trainers are required to report possible equine abuse. The fact that the farm was located in Florida didn't matter because Martin participated in Indiana racing, Pratt ruled.

"The court agrees with Mr. Davis and Mr. Klopp that given Mr. Martin's extensive involvement in Indiana horseracing, they 'could reasonably believe he was a person about whom they had a duty to report suspected wrongdoing to the IHRC'," the court wrote in its decision.

The decision is part of a larger civil case brought by Martin against the IHRC, IHRC executive director Joe Gorajec, IHRC director of security Terry Richwine, former IHRC chair Sarah McNaught, and veterinarian Liane Puccia. In the case, Martin accuses the defendants of conspiracy and defamation and is seeking $700,000 along with punitive damages against each of the defendants. The court has dismissed the conspiracy charges against Puccia.

Martin's attorney, Michael Red, told the Indianapolis Business Journal that he believes the case will proceed to trial.

A former director of the Indiana Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, Martin was hired as that organization's executive director in 2009. In his complaint, Martin notes that this role placed him in conflict with the IHRC on issues like purse funds.

Martin said a 2010 investigation by the Horse Protection Association of Florida exonerated him of any wrongdoing involving abuse or neglect of horses at his Martin Stables South but that the IHRC has continued to publish the allegations and worked to ensure his employment with ITOBA was terminated.

In a statement at the time of the filing, Gorajec said, "The lawsuit is baselessutterly without merit. The Indiana State Police and the Indiana Inspector General have already investigated complaints on this matter. They found no wrongdoing by the commission or the commission staff."