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Non-Economic Damages in Pet Litigation: The Serious Need to Preserve a Rational Rule

By Victor E. Schwartz, Emily J. Laird

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Abstract

For more than two hundred years, the traditional rule in pet law has been to limit damages to the market value of the animal that has been injured or killed. This system has worked well, resulting in low and predictable costs of veterinary services. Yet, some have regarded the system as overly harsh because of the very strong emotions pet owners may feel when a pet is injured or dies because of another's negligence. As a result, advocates of change to the traditional damage rules in animal cases encourage courts and
legislatures to award non-economic damages in pet cases. This article will describe these potential changes and the public policy implications of changing the rules of damages in animal law. After briefly describing the traditional rules of damages in tort law, an important
predicate to understanding the current unsound impetus to change, this article will set forth the established law of damages with respect to pets and other animals. It will show how the movement to allow non-economic damages in pet cases assaults fundamental principles of animal law. It will also demonstrate several reasons why allowing non-economic damages in pet cases is unsound public policy. Next, this article will explain how allowing non-economic damages in pet cases, particularly in those involving mere negligence, harms veterinarians, manufacturers of pet medications, pet owners, and even pets themselves.  Finally, it will then show that capping non-economic damages in pet suits is not a helpful compromise, but a dangerous misstep that is to be avoided.

Submitter

Katie Carroll

Date 2006
Publication Title Pepperdine Law Review
Volume 33
Issue 2
Publisher Pepperdine Libraries
URL http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/plr/vol33/iss2/1/
Language English
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Cats
  4. Dogs
  5. Economics
  6. Law and legal issues
  7. Laws and regulations
  8. Legislation
  9. Litigation
  10. Mammals
  11. Pets and companion animals