Wayward bull lands rancher in court

David Yates Aug. 8, 2007, 10:16am

Animal-rights activists strongly advocate free-range livestock, but even they may have difficulty making a case for an Orange rancher who allowed a bull to roam an Interstate 10 service road, where a local police officer struck the animal with his cruiser.

Seeking compensation for officer Chris Melancon's medical bills and the smashed up cruiser, Orange City Attorney Margaret Reaves filed suit against rancher Stephen R. Gilbreath with the Orange County District Court on Aug. 7.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, on Aug. 8, 2005, during his night patrol, officer Melancon was driving his 2004 Ford Crown Victoria along the I-10 service road when, unexpectedly, he collided the 2,000 pound walking steak. The bull's brand indicated Gilbreath owned the animal.

"Gilbreath received a citation from the Texas Department of Public Safety for permitting livestock to roam at large," the suit said, adding that his actions were negligent.

"As a result of the collision, officer Melancon suffered personal injuries causing him to incur medical charges and expenses," the suit said. "He has been paid workers' compensation benefits."

For now, the city is suing the rancher for $845.36 in medical expenses and for $14,001 in property damages, but says in its suit that the "total amount is not final and in all probability will be higher at the time of trial."

The case has been assigned to the 260th Judicial District.

Case No. D070381.c

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