Famed Dinosaur Expert Testifies in Montana Lawsuit

By Beacon Staff

BOZEMAN – A dinosaur expert who was an adviser for the “Jurassic Park” films testified in a lawsuit between his employer and a developer whose plan to use the paleontologist’s fame to launch a luxury development crumbled when the economy collapsed.

Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies testified Thursday and Friday in Gallatin County that dinosaur egg digs involving clients of the upscale development stopped when money ran out.

The museum sued developer Wade Dokken in 2009, contending that Dokken breached a 2007 contract by failing to pay the museum from a $2 million endowment in exchange for the museum highlighting the Ameya Preserve and changing Horner’s title to Ameya Preserve Curator of Paleontology.

The museum contends that Dokken pulling out of the agreement was “not a case of a donor unable to fulfill a pledge, but rather a businessman who took advantage of the Museum’s goodwill to try to sell real estate in a commercial development and then refused to pay.”

Dokken has said the museum breached the contract by failing to publicize the agreement it had with Ameya Preserve, and by failing to change Horner’s title at the museum from Curator of Paleontology to the Ameya Preserve Curator of Paleontology.

Dokken founded the 11,000-acre luxury development in the Paradise Valley south of Livingston. The plan involved attracting clients with the promise of digging up dinosaur eggs on an adjacent property located on the O’Hair Ranch Company property that contains Jurassic-aged rocks.

In the 1980s, the fossilized bones of multiple long-necked sauropods were discovered in the area, and Horner said it likely holds new discoveries yet to be made.

“There’s a good chance there’s a new species there,” Horner said. “There are a lot of dinosaurs out there.”

But the digs stopped when the money stopped, Horner said.

Dokken’s attorney, David Charles, also questioned Horner about his lack of use of the Ameya Preserve Curator of Paleontology title. Charles said Horner didn’t use the title when referred to in news stories or in one of his books.

“When I was writing the book it (included the title) in 2008,” Horner said. “But by 2009 it was very clear that I wasn’t going to be the Ameya Preserve curator anymore, so I took it off.”

The trial that started Tuesday resumes this week and is expected to last 12 days.

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