The civil suit filed by South Boston resident Christen Waddle against employees of the Halifax County animal control department has been ordered to mediation.
Elizabeth K. Dillon, United States district judge for the Western District of Virginia, issued an order on June 18 referring the case to judge Robert S. Ballou for mediation.
Attorneys for both parties were instructed to contact Ballou’s chambers to schedule the mediation, and both parties were further advised any information provided during the mediation proceeding would be treated as confidential, according to the order.
Dillon also issued a scheduling order for the case, which is set for a three-day jury trial Aug. 7-9 in United States District Court in Danville.
In her order, Dillon encouraged the parties to engage in settlement discussions, with the court referring the case to magistrate judge Ballou to conduct mediation upon a motion of any party.
Proposed jury instructions and special interrogatories must be filed electronically at least seven days before trial, and counsel was instructed to email proposed voir dire questions at least seven days before trial, according to Dillon’s order.
If the case is set for jury trial, the parties must jointly submit a proposed statement of the case to be read to the jury during voir dire.
If the case is settled before trial, and the court does not receive a proposed final order within 30 days after the court has received oral or written notification of the settlement, the court will dismiss the case with prejudice, according to Dillon’s order.
If any party wants the court to retain jurisdiction to enforce the settlement, then that party must so move within 60 days of the entry of the dismissal order, the order reads.
Waddle is seeking over $1 million in the federal lawsuit — $750,000 in compensatory damages plus $350,000 in punitive damages.
Named as defendants in the suit are Todd Moser, Aundrea Claughton, Nicholas D. Jones and Dre’ Tucker.
Waddle, who is represented by attorney D. Stan Barnhill of Wood Rogers, PLC, was arrested Dec. 26, 2017 and charged with felony larceny relating to a Dec. 20, 2017 incident where she picked up a dog.
That along with a misdemeanor larceny charge was later dismissed in Halifax County General District Court, with commonwealth’s attorney Tracy Q. Martin moving to nol pros the charge, stating, “that the evidence did not indicate criminal intent as required by law.”
Waddle filed the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Danville on March 2, 2018.
According to the suit, Waddle was driving a car along U.S. Route 360 near Union Church Road on the morning of Dec. 20, 2017 and unexpectedly encountered a dog running loose in the middle of the road, having to swerve to avoid hitting the dog.
According to Waddle, she could see immediately that the dog appeared to be “emaciated, sick and had not been properly cared for by its owner.”
The suit states that Waddle called the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office Saturday morning and asked to speak to animal control, but there was no answer.
Waddle, who noticed a tracking collar with Jones’ name and phone number on the dog, tried without success to reach Jones before deciding to take the dog to animal control.
She also located Jones’ Facebook page on her cell phone and left him a message stating she had one of his hunting dogs, and if he wanted to get the dog back to meet her at animal control.
While standing at a gas pump at a convenience store later that morning, Waddle noticed a truck with two dogs and a dog kennel drive by the gas station and return to the lot, stopping on the passenger side of Waddle’s car, with five men surrounding the car as she phoned 911 and locked the car.
As she spoke with the E-911 dispatcher, Jones asked Waddle if she had his dog, and she responded that she did, and that she had law enforcement on the phone and that they were going to meet them there.
According to the suit, the five men, including Jones and Tucker, threatened to break her car windows if she didn’t immediately turn over the dog, and the men continued to shout vulgarities at her while she was still on the phone with the dispatcher.
Waddle told the dispatcher she would not unlock her car to give the dog back to the five men before law enforcement arrived.
Animal control and law enforcement responded to the gas station, where Claughton commented on the dog’s emaciated condition and took it back to the shelter with him, the suit states.
Animal Control subsequently released the dog back to Jones with a cruelty warning and a warning to take it to a veterinarian for evaluation within 24 hours, with the vet recommending the dog be euthanized.
Waddle spoke to Claughton early that afternoon after learning he released the dog back to Jones, telling him it was wrong for him to return the dog, given its emaciated condition, and she immediately called PETA to report the incident and Claughton’s failure to protect the dog.
Three months later, Waddle filed the civil suit in federal court seeking $1 million in damages.