Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkeys Who Lack Standing to Sue

Good news if you’re involved in a legal dispute with a monkey. The primate–not you, the other one–lacks standing to sue.

That’s the short answer in a long opinion from the 73rd Judicial District Court in Bexar County, Texas in which nine chimps and monkeys sued their keeper.

Ohio State University (OSU) entered into an agreement with Primarily Primates, Inc. (PP), a Texas entity, to transfer ownership of nine chimpanzees and three new world monkeys. In return for PP agreeing to provide lifetime care for the primates, OSU agreed to pay a substantial amount to construct a facility for them and to provide an endowment to help care for them.

After the primates were shipped to PP, two of them died and a third escaped from its cage. A couple months later, attorneys purporting to represent the remaining primates (named Sarah, Harper, Emma, Keeli, Ivy, Seba, Darrell, Rain and Ulysses) filed suit against PP alleging breach of contract.

But the court held the monkeys did not have standing to bring suit and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the action. Adding three humans as “interested parties” didn’t help save the monkeys’ case.

Hope those monkeys and chimps are okay.

Meanwhile, Senior Judge James Barlow, San Antonio, TX, longtime supporter of lawhaha.com, commented in a letter that he “did not think we should encourage making Texas the dumping ground for a bunch of Yankee chimps to start with.” But, he added, that was a policy question.

Sarah v. Primarily Primates, Inc., 255 S.W.3d 132, 135–36 (Tex. App. 2008). Thanks to Judge Barlow.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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