Thursday, April 25, 2013

Texas Supreme Court holds there is no cause of action for emotional distress based on death of pet

As you may remember, I had been following a case before the Texas Supreme Court on whether the owners of a dog accidentally euthanized can sue for the sentimental value of the family pet or merely for the replacement value of their pet.  (See, most recently, here.)  I have argued before that I really don't see why pet owners should not have the right to try to claim emotional distress due to the deaths or injuries to their pets (see here, here and here) and there are a few cases out there that have recognized these types of claims, (See here for example.)

Texas had conflicting decisions within the jurisdiction so the opinion of the Supreme Court was needed to resolve the conflict.  The opinion was issued a few days ago.  I saved it to comment on it later, but then got distracted with other things so I am now trying to catch up.

In any case, the court decided the case against the plaintiffs.  It did not recognize the claim and, instead, adopted the traditional view that animals are property and, as such, are valued based on the market value alone. The case is called Strickland v. Medlen and it is available here.

For news and comments on the case, you can go to Jonathan Turley's blog. the Star-Telegram, and this Op Ed piece in the Star Telegram in which the author mocks part of the reasoning behind the opinion saying,
Heavens, if monetary damages were available when the pet store paralyzed your dog during grooming, a whole cottage industry of lawyers would spring up to file frivolous suits. If veterinarians had to worry about not killing your pet during neutering, they'd start practicing defensive medicine, which would make costs skyrocket, so people would stop bringing in their pets, they'd get sick and die, or ferals and strays would proliferate, or owners would choose euthanasia instead of treatment, or low-income families would just abandon their beloved companions.

. . . .   Could the real problem be, though, that Texas law needs expanding regarding family members and best friends, not narrowing regarding animal friends?
 Similarly, Jonathan Turley summarizes the decision this way:
This issue resulted in a significant decision in Texas Supreme Court last week when it found that damages for the loss of [the family dog] could not include his sentimental value to the owner. In other words, [the dog] was a toaster. More friendly, more loyal, but a toaster when it comes to torts.

Read more here: