Scott Carroll

I swear I can’t make this stuff up.

While perusing the list of recent complaints filed in Douglas County Circuit Court — something I try and do at least once a week — I came across one that caught my attention.

It involved three people who are suing a company that had mishandled, and eventually killed, some apparently very valuable bull semen. The lost semen included samples from some prized bulls, including one who was named a Grand Champion back in 1991. The three people are suing the company for at least $5 million.

According to the complaint, two Coos County residents, along with a woman from Lincoln County, owned an artificial insemination tank that was stored on a farm in Broadbent, Oregon, just south of Myrtle Point. The tank held 395 straws of bull semen that the plaintiffs had been collecting for nearly 30 years.

The majority of the bull semen held in the artificial insemination tank was Red Angus foundation stock and included some of the rarest Red Angus bloodlines. Among the semen in the tank was the remaining specimen collected from “Coquille Red Ruler,” the grand champion of the National Red Angus Show in 1991. The plaintiffs said they had planned to use the semen to create a breeding program to produce Red Angus beef, as well as maintain their family legacy in the cattle industry.

Their plans included opening a restaurant featuring Red Angus beef and naming it “Coquille Red Ruler.” The plaintiffs said they own the building in Coquille in which they planned to open the restaurant.

The company in question is an agricultural cooperative that is headquartered in the state of Washington and does business in Douglas County. The company provides livestock semen and related supplies, purchases semen and supplies from other producers, sells semen to customers, and provides the service of refilling artificial insemination tanks with liquid nitrogen to owners of artificial insemination tanks, such as the plaintiffs.

Proper preservation of bull semen requires specimens to be kept in straws in liquid nitrogen tanks. Liquid nitrogen naturally evaporates over time, so it is imperative to ensure liquid nitrogen levels are properly monitored and maintained in order to avoid damage to the semen. For more than 20 years, the plaintiffs relied on the company to refill the liquid nitrogen in their artificial insemination tank. The plaintiffs said they left it up to the company to determine when the tank would be refilled in order to maintain proper liquid nitrogen levels and preserve the semen in the artificial insemination tank.

The plaintiffs say they relied on the company’s expertise and knowledge regarding filling the nitrogen tank on a quarterly basis and maintaining proper liquid nitrogen levels. Each time the tank was filled the company would send the plaintiffs a bill, which they would pay.

Early last year, the wife of one of the plaintiffs died. Around the same time, the man wrote the company a check to pay for the previous quarter of service. A little while later the man was contacted by representatives from the company, who wanted to buy some of the bull semen from the insemination tank. The man did not respond to their offer and assumed the company would continue to refill the liquid nitrogen in the artificial insemination tank.

A few months later the man realized he had not received his standard quarterly invoice for the liquid nitrogen. He contacted the owner of the farm where the artificial insemination tank was stored. That’s when he says he learned that the company had not maintained the artificial insemination tank and that the semen stored in the tank — including “the entire remaining line of “National Champion Coquille Red Ruler” — had been dead for two months.

The loss of the semen caused the plaintiffs to suffer “the value of the calves that could have been produced from the lost straws of bull semen, the lost business opportunities, and the mental suffering and emotional distress from their injuries and the loss of their family legacy, in an amount to be proven at trial but not less than $5,000,000.”

The complaint was filed just before Thanksgiving; the company has yet to file its response.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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