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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jury awards nearly $1.4M to man whose kitty was ‘catnapped’ by Portland landlord

By Zane Sparling The Oregonian

A man left feline-less and forlorn when his landlord took his cat prevailed in court this week – and landed some major scratch.

A Multnomah County Circuit Court jury spent less than two hours deliberating Thursday before awarding $1.375 million to Joshua Smith for the loss of his 3-year-old tabby, Frank.

“The jury’s message should be loud and clear to landlords,” said attorney Michael Fuller, who won the case. “You need to respect the rights of tenants, especially when it comes to pets.”

Smith, 41, encountered the apparent street cat in 2017 and eventually welcomed Frank into the room he rented at a drug recovery group home on Southeast 119th Avenue in Portland, court records show.

Smith returned home on April 29, 2019, and found Frank had mysteriously vanished. He sued his landlord, Devon Andrade, and the recovery house business, Pinestreet LLC, days later.

As the litigation advanced, Andrade admitted he had catnapped Frank, saying it was a violation of Smith’s lease to have a pet. After The Oregonian/OregonLive wrote about the lawsuit, Andrade acknowledged that he got his girlfriend to hurriedly drop Frank off at a local shelter, according to a memo written by Andrade’s attorney.

During the trial, the question wasn’t who had stolen the cat but whether Smith was due punitive damages and recompense for emotional distress from Andrade and the insurance company for Pinestreet.

“It turned out that the people on the jury were also animal lovers,” said Fuller, who lives with a cat, three dogs and four chickens himself.

As for Smith, he wasn’t reunited with Frank. Veterinarians found a microchip in the cat and returned him to his original owner.

In the years since the lawsuit was filed, Smith has gotten married, stayed in recovery, moved to Seaside and started up the Handsome Wolf barbershop.

He’s petless for now, but said he hopes to use the jury award to support others in his community and maybe buy a place of his own where he can welcome some new animal friends.

“The most important thing was that I got my day in court,” Smith said. “I got really lucky because I told the truth, no matter what.”

Andrade and the attorney for the company’s insurance agency, Stephanie Schilling, declined to comment.