Doubts About Lawful Possession of Cattle Prevent Perfection of Veterinary Lien

In re Kern, No. 22-40437 (Bankr. D.Kan. May 26, 2023)

On May 26, 2023, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas entered a memorandum opinion and order disallowing a secured claim asserted by a veterinarian. Briefly, Section 47-836 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated confers a lien to secure the just and reasonable charges of a veterinarian who bestows care “at the request of the owner or lawful possessor” provided that notice is filed with the county within sixty days.

Here, veterinarian Burlington came into possession of 27 heads of cattle and rendered care to them. Meanwhile, the Debtors claimed to have no knowledge of delivering the cattle or requesting care. Accordingly, the Debtors objected to Burlington’s secured claim of about $20,000.

The Debtors succeeded in creating doubt about the circumstances under which Burlington came into possession of the cattle. The Debtors did this by offering evidence that, on the day the cattle were purportedly delivered, the Debtors had no employees, the cattle driver was unidentified, the truck purportedly used for delivery was out of commission in another county, and the Debtors’ own truck was incapable of hauling the load. With this, the Debtors overcame the presumption of the validity of Burlington’s claim, and Burlington was not able to bear the burden of proof once it was shifted to him.

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