Number of Malpractice Cases Spikes ... for Pets ; Animal Owners Are Suing Vets for Emotional Damages, Testing the Legal Definition of 'Pets' as Property

By Richard, Chris | The Christian Science Monitor, July 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Number of Malpractice Cases Spikes ... for Pets ; Animal Owners Are Suing Vets for Emotional Damages, Testing the Legal Definition of 'Pets' as Property


Richard, Chris, The Christian Science Monitor


When attorney Robert Newman lectures at veterinarians' conventions, he brings along his Chihuahua, Ruben.

Mr. Newman begins his talk by telling the audience that he paid $23 for Ruben at an animal shelter. Then the little dog trots on stage. Ruben sits, speaks, plays dead, rolls over, gives Newman a high-five.

"Then I pick him up and I ask, 'How many of you believe that if I bring Ruben to you and you do something wrong that results in his death and you give me $23, that you've made me whole? Raise your hands,' " says Newman.

But there's always silence and no one raises their hands, says the attorney. "They know that a fair-market value approach to a companion animal is a joke, an insult."

It used to be that if a pet died on the operating table or was seriously injured due to human carelessness the owner had little legal recourse. Courts typically defined pets as property, and limited damages to the assessed value of the animal.

But that is changing.

For one thing, state legislatures are starting to reform their animal-protection laws. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are considering legislation granting pet owners the right to sue for pain and suffering damages, including punitive damages for neglect or abuse. Tennessee enacted such a law in 2000 and Illinois passed a version of the law last year. West Virginia has removed caps that once limited damages to the assessed value of a pet.

The trend is part of a growing push to recast pet owners as "guardians" in the eyes of the law, a shift that has some legal scholars worried. Some warn that these specific changes in tort law could bring a wave of frivolous litigation and increases in the price of veterinary care. Others question the move to classify animals as something more than property. Animal-rights activists, on the other hand, welcome such legislation, claiming it might help owners recover substantial damages.

"This is not seen as silly or crazy any more," says Joyce Tischler, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. "Protecting companion animals is not just something a crazy little old lady in tennis shoes would do. It has touched a nerve with legislators, with judges, and with all sorts of others who consider animals as part of the family."

Subtle shifts in the law

Other legal changes also are under way. The newest revision of the Uniform Probate and Trust Code - the legal structure underlying the disposition of property after a person's death - includes guarantees on trust funds to care for pets. The rules have been adopted by 19 states.

Further, some government bodies are changing the terminology used to describe animals, a move animal-rights activists say is essential to distinguish them from "chattel," a legal definition of property that includes everything from household furniture to livestock. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Number of Malpractice Cases Spikes ... for Pets ; Animal Owners Are Suing Vets for Emotional Damages, Testing the Legal Definition of 'Pets' as Property
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.