Vermont Supreme Ct: ‘Animals=People’ Case LOSES!!

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Plaintiffs, Robert and Susan Goodby, were having their two cats treated for hypertension in 2002. The cats were given the  medication and died, allegedly because it had a higher concentration than labeled. According to the AVMA:

“Claims for noneconomic damages over the wrongful death or injury of a pet are rare but on the rise. These suits are almost always dismissed, however, because animals are considered property for the purpose of determining compensatory value.

“Tort laws allow owners to recover an animal’s market value, associated medical expenses, and, at times, other economic damages, such as breeding status, pedigree, and special training. The exceptions are Tennessee and Illinois, where the state legislatures have allowed non-economic rewards in companion animal cases in very limited circumstances, excluding veterinary negligence cases.”  [TN and IL are a few of the states where HSUS  IS pushing the worst laws!]

Update:  The Vermont State Supreme Court has ruled that they have affirmed the lower court’s ruling, REJECTING the Plaintiff’s (cat owners) contention that NON -economic damages should be awarded—-(such as pain and suffering, emotional distress)…… the court stated it would not expand the law to provide recovery options for pets that are not available in many human-human relationships. To rule otherwise, the court stated, would be “a dramatic alteration to the law.”

“Plaintiffs” [the cat owners] ” fail to demonstrate a compelling reason why, as a matter of public policy, the law should offer broader compensation for the loss of a pet than would be available for the loss of a friend, relative, work animal, heirloom or memento — all of which can be prized beyond measure, but for which this state’s law does not recognize recovery for sentimental loss.”

According to the Goodbys’ attorney, Steven Wise, the time has come for courts to allow noneconomic rewards when a pet dies or is injured as a result of negligence. “I’ve been waiting for a case like this for a long time,” said Wise, who teaches animal rights law at Vermont Law School.

“The only reason we’re filing this suit is to get noneconomic damages. We’re not interested in winning a hundred dollars just because that’s what the cats are worth,” he said.

[Wise is the animal rights extremist professor- attorney presenting Plaintiff’s claim in the Court]

“In a brief urging denial of the Goodbys’ appeal, the Animal Health Institute and American Kennel Club noted how the courts won’t allow a person to collect emotional loss damages for wrongful injuries to friends, siblings, and other important relatives. “We have asked the Vermont Supreme Court to stick with traditional law,” said Dr. Kent McClure, AHI general counsel.”

The Humane Society of the United States is one of the organizations fighting for new laws that reflect ‘society’s current attitude’ towards animals.

“We favor a general provision to recognize that there is an emotional dimension to this issue, and there should be compensation for people whose pets are the victims of cruelty,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society.    “History shows that cruelty issues are settled on the state level. State lawmakers will be considering public opinion as they introduce new legislation to reflect society’s antipathy towards acts of animal cruelty,” Pacelle said.  and WP said this in 2006,,2933,235240,00.html

Case precedent is a significant step in paving the way for legislation,” said Dana Campbell, senior attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “These cases can help show that loss of companionship should be a cause of action.”

Victor Schwartz, a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon and co-author of the Pepperdine law review article, “Non-Economic Damages in Pet Litigation: The Serious Need to Preserve a Rational Rule,” is an animal lover.

But Schwartz says courts siding on the side of emotion are risking heading down a slippery slope, since veterinarians, pet boarders, and animal medicine manufacturers will be plagued with lawsuits and liability insurance will skyrocket.

“If everyone is able to sue for unspecified amounts based on emotional damages, the cost of veterinary medicine will become unaffordable for most people,” he said. Schwartz added that means for seeking damages in cases of animal cruelty already exist in the courts.

In most states, including Vermont, civil lawsuits allow people to sue for punitive damages in cases of “conscious reckless wrongdoing.” That means if someone’s animal is intentionally hurt or killed, pet owners already have the option to sue for damages and deter such behavior. So, Schwartz said, the need to award damages based on emotional loss is unnecessary and would only hurt pet owners in the long run.  (AVMA article)

So what is the DANGER of this case?

If the Vermont Supreme Court should find that NON economic damages could be awarded, we are looking at animals being considered on the same level as children.  In fact that could place animals higher than perhaps siblings, relatives, best friends, etc.  Is this where the court should venture?  According to animal rights extremists, YES is the answer.  BEWARE!!!!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2008 at 2:00 PM (30 min. hearing)   VT Supreme Court

(click above link, scroll to #17 , click on the underlined case 2008-030,  to hear  attorney argument)

2008-030     SUSAN GOODBY* and ROBERT GOODBY*                             VETPHARM, INC. d/b/a BCP
YANKAUSKAS, DVM, PAULA                                                                                                            YANKAUSKAS,
Dein, Pamela, Esq.                                                                   Hoar, Samuel, Esq. (Vets)
Illuzzi, Vincent, Esq.                                                      Marks, Michael, Esq.
Burns, James E., Esq.                                                  Miller, Elizabeth, Esq.
Roth, Nicole A., Esq.                                                     Simon, Thomas, Esq.
Goldberg, Philip S., Esq.
Wise, Steven M., Esq.
Schwartz, Vincent E., Esq.

Defendants arguments say the questions are “policy” questions for the legislature, not the courts.

One judge mentioned that there was no evidence in the record because the prior claims were dismissed with prejudice, no affidavits on Plaintiffs former other claims were included. Only the issue of whether the non economic damages could be allowed went forward.  Defendants counsel and at least one Justice,  seemed to indicate that procedural issues would cause the issue to not prevail.  My guess is that the Plaintiff did not prove the case, but the final decision has not come out yet from what I could find.


One thought on “Vermont Supreme Ct: ‘Animals=People’ Case LOSES!!

  1. Animal groups that were once animal welfare groups are more and more slanting towards animals rights. Even the SPCA’s or the humane societies.

    International Fund for Animal Welfare IFAW and World Society for the Protection of Animals WSPA come to mind.

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