Friday, April 20, 2012

Emotional Distress Damages for the Death of a Pet

Illinois is slowly coming around to the national trend of treating pets as more than personal property.  For over 100 years in Illinois, if your dog was killed due to the negligence of another, the courts would only award you damages for the actual value of the dog (a piece of property), or less than $100 in most cases.  

In January 2009, I wrote THIS post about an Illinois appellate court case that held that the proper basis for determining the measure of damages for the loss of a pet is to determine the pet's "actual value to the plaintiff."  In that case, the plaintiff had spent $5,000 in veterinary bills to try to save his dog, so the court awarded the plaintiff $5,000.

Other states are going way beyond the "actual value to the plaintiff," however.  Courts is certain states are starting to award damages for emotional distress for the death of a pet.  HERE is an article about a trial court in Denver that awarded a woman $65,000 for the death of her dog.  She had hired a maid service to clean her house.  While they were cleaning her house, they let the dog run out into the street where it was run over by a car.  The maid apparently took the dog back into the house and tried to pretend that nothing happened.  When the woman returned home, she found the dog dead beneath a table.  Surely the cover-up played into the award, but it is still significant nonetheless.  The article also notes that the plaintiff's initial demand was $25,000 and that the cleaning service offered $2,000 to settle.

HERE is another article about an appellate court opinion out of Texas that overturned a lower court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to recover "sentimental" or "intrinsic" damages when the plaintiff's dog was mistakenly euthanized by the Animal Control Department.  The appellate court ruled that when personal property has little or no market value, damages can be awarded on the basis of the property's intrinsic or sentimental value to its owner, similar to the Illinois decision that I referenced above.

And, you will all surely remember THIS post I wrote about special damages being awarded in New Jersey in 1941 for the death of a dog that had been trained to work in a vaudeville act.  

So, basically what I am trying to say is that if anybody's dog was recently killed, you should give me a call.  Have a nice weekend. 


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Oscar Jost said...

The loss of a pet may be very light to some. But when pets, especially dogs have saved a life or two in the family or is trained to rescue an individual, the pet will truly be a loss to any pet care owner. It is a loss to such an extent that some people even make pet grave markers and treat them as one of the family members who died.