The article in the January Observer described litigation surrounding a home built by U-M physicians Bradley Foerster and Myria Petrou. The Markels, who live nearby, decided to check out the couple’s blog, goosileaks.blogspot.com. There they found photos of the doctors’ children playing with their cats, “Ginger” and “Tigsy”–who looked a lot like the Markels’ own felines, “Atticus” and “Bear.”
Now the Markels, too, are in court with Petrou and Foerster–seeking to reclaim the cats they say are theirs.
According to the Markels’ complaint, starting last August, Atticus went missing for days or weeks at a time, and Bear, too, eventually went AWOL. Then, in a Dec. 9 post on Goosileaks, Foerster and Petrou sounded the alarm that “Ginger” and “Tigsy” had gone “missing.” According to the Markels, that was the very date they last saw their own two cats. Late in December, Goosileaks trumpeted the news that the cats were back at the Foerster-Petrou residence.
After seeing the photos on the blog, the Markels say they visited, called, and mailed Foerster and Petrou–who responded by trying to get a restraining order against them (it was denied). The Markels called the police, but when an officer went to the doctors’ house, they refused to turn over the cats.
So the couple enlisted their daughter, Alexandra Markel, an attorney at Bodman in Detroit. They’re suing Petrou and Foerster in district court, seeking the cats, $300 in damages, and court and attorney costs.
Judge Joseph Burke ordered the doctors to bring the cats to the Humane Society of Huron Valley for examination. According to the Markels, on February 21, Foerster showed up with a cat, but it wasn’t either of the ones pictured on the blog. At a second session on February 26, Petrou arrived with that same cat plus another. According to the court record, HSHV staff read the cats’ implanted microchips. One had been chipped at the Toledo Area Humane Society and was registered to Petrou. The second was registered to a man in Columbus.
Abbey Hall of the Toledo humane Society confirms that Petrou adopted a cat there on February 21, the very day her husband first presented it at HSHV. According to Alexandra Markel, the Columbus man had given up his cat to the humane society there, where it was adopted on February 24–just two days before Petrou presented it at the second HSHV session. (Neither the doctors nor their attorney in the case, Cyril Hall, responded to requests for comment.)
The Markels filed a motion to show cause why the doctors should not be held in contempt of court, but in mid-March, Alexandra Markel said that the parties were close to a settlement. And around the same time, the doctors notched a big legal win: prosecutors decided not to press charges over Petrou’s transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars from her parents’ investment account to her own bank account.
The couple complained frequently about that financial investigation on Goosileaks, but if they’re celebrating now, only their friends will know: The blog is now accessible by invitation only. Meanwhile, the doctors continue to face imminent eviction from their Geddes Ridge mansion–and their latest lawsuit has suffered a serious setback.
On a snowy day in early March, a throng of attorneys gathered in U.S. district court judge Sean Cox’s courtroom in downtown Detroit. They represented dozens of defendants–including builder Christopher Laycock, the City of Ann Arbor, the Bank of Ann Arbor, Petrou’s own mother, and the Ann Arbor Observer–whom the doctors are suing under the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The massive, 319-page complaint alleged that the defendants were engaged in a criminal conspiracy against the doctors. It sought $5 million in actual damages and $100 million in punitive damages–which could triple, under RICO, to $300 million.
The complaint included attorney Cyril Hall’s law license number and bore the printed signature “C. Hall.” But Judge Cox had called the hearing to hear Hall’s request to withdraw from the case. Under questioning from the judge, Hall said that he hadn’t filed the complaint–and that the couple had told him they had filed it themselves. Cox couldn’t question Petrou and Foerster directly, because they’d skipped the session.
The judge was not happy. In a subsequent order, he concluded that the complaint “bears a forged signature”–and added that someone had “sought to deceive the Court.” Since the complaint was invalid, he wrote, he was throwing out the entire case.
The judge ordered both the doctors and Hall to appear at another hearing on April 5. In boldface type, he warned: “Myria Petrou and Bradley Foerster are cautioned that failure to appear for this hearing may result in the Court finding them in contempt.”
The RICO suit was dismissed without prejudice, so the couple could file it again–but they might have a hard time finding a new attorney. The defendants include three of their own former lawyers.