Negligence that Injures Your Pet
Attorney Rivers J. Morrell III
A recent case expanded the rights of pet owners in terms of what can be recovered. In this case, Plotnik vs. Meihaus (2012), the court permitted the owner of a dog to recover emotional distress damages. Here a neighbor had attacked the plaintiff's dog, and injured the dog. Medical bills were around $2800. The neighbor was then sued to recover the costs of these medical bills, and he was also sued for causing emotional distress damages to the dog owner. In general a dog or other pet is considered personal property, and it is very difficult to recover damages other than damages to repair the item of personal property, or for a pet, the medical bills. The court recognized the importance and significance of a pet. A cause of action for trespass was permitted, under which the dog owner could recover emotional distress damages. In addition, punitive damages would be available under the Civil Code if the injury to the dog was found to be intentional. The court also expressed an opinion that a case could be made for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, under which emotional distress damages could also be recovered.
We are seeing the expansion of the rights of pets, and of what damages a pet owner can recover. This is another case in which these recovery rights are expanded.
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