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Carole Baskin Moves to Dismiss Lawsuit by Dead Husband’s Children, Says It Comes Decades Too Late

Howard and Carole Baskin, with tiger Jasmine

Famed lover of big cats and soon-to-be Dancing With The Stars contestant Carole Baskin filed a motion to dismiss pleadings filed by her former husband’s children.  Jack “Don” Lewis, Carole’s husband, went missing in 1997, and was officially presumed dead by a court in 2002. Lewis’s daughters Donna L. PettisLynda L. Sanchez, and Gale L. Rathbone—along with his former assistant Anne McQueen—filed a lawsuit in early August seeking to obtain more information about Lewis’s life and death.

Baskin, the CEO of Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, rose to instant fame after the airing of the Netflix series Tiger King. Among other things, the show covered the 1997 disappearance of Baksin’s then-husband, Lewis. Although no one has been charged in Lewis’s death, people ranging from Baskin’s big-cat rival Joseph Maldonado-Passage (aka “Joe Exotic“) to O.J. Simpson have gone on record to say they believed Baskin killed Lewis and fed him to her tigers. Baskin has categorically denied this.

In Baskin’s recent motion to dismiss the Pure Bill of Discovery, she argues that the timing of the lawsuit is more than suspect. When Tiger King, Murder, Mayhem and Madness began to air in March 2020, it “apparently encouraged the Plaintiffs to attempt to revive and relitigate unsupported allegations and suspected causes of action that have expired and/or were resolved in court long ago.” Twenty-two years earlier, Baskin and the plaintiffs entered into a stipulation to settle any legal issues among them.

Under Florida law, a Pure Bill of Discovery is a lawsuit that seeks not compensation, but information. That information may then form the basis of a later lawsuit for money damages.

Baskin argues that the plaintiffs have “entirely fail[ed] to establish why a pure bill of discovery is necessary now, particularly after any statute of limitations has long since run.” In a seemingly unironic animal metaphor, Baskin calls the Lewis children’s lawsuit a “fishing expedition,” and demands its dismissal, lest the court “supply the rod and reel.”

Baskin’s latest filing calls out the plaintiffs for seeking information without any specific purpose:

At best, the Plaintiffs vaguely allude to some form of unidentified ‘wrongdoing’ by Baskin and others, without any explanation to justify the twenty-three year delay in bringing any action.

Furthermore, Baskin argues, when Lewis’s estate matters were settled, each party had had their own attorneys, and the resolution reached was approved both by a court and a neutral co-conservator.

Now, Baskin contends, it’s too late.

“[E]ighteen years after Mr. Lewis was legally presumed dead,” she argues in her motion, “the Plaintiffs now incredulously allege that ‘[i]ssues still exist about whether the last known will and testament of Mr. Lewis and a Power of Attorney relied upon by Defendant Baskin in the probate court was bona fide.’”

[Image via Howard and Carole Baskin, with tiger Jasmine, via Jamie Veronica Murdock; courtesy of Carole Baskin]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos