Resolving Animal Tort Claims
Another way that the word “property” comes up in animal law is in the context of a tort claim, which is a type of civil claim that can arise when an animal or human has been hurt or killed. Tort claims come up in animal law in a variety of contexts. Defendants in these actions vary widely and could include veterinarians, pet groomers, boarding facilities, pet hotels, horse trainers, dog owners, dog fosters, dog walkers, automobile drivers, horse riders, bicyclists or neighbors. In some instances, there are unscrupulous plaintiffs who try to game the system.
Although there are a variety of tort claims, the claims most likely to emerge in animal law cases involve negligent acts or intentional torts. A negligence claim is based on the concept of a person failing to act as a reasonable person, causing an injury to another, and that the individual who failed to act reasonably could be subject to liability and certain damages, including economic, noneconomic and punitive. If the injury or death was caused deliberately, the action is called an intentional tort. When death is a result, the plaintiff’s action may be identified as a wrongful death claim, although there is division around the country about whether wrongful death applies to humans only, or if it could be applied to animals, too.
Throughout the country and in a variety of cases in Minnesota, the tort terminology changes a little from case to case, but the concepts are still the same. One example is that negligence by a veterinarian is usually referred to as veterinary malpractice and for that type of negligence, courts look to the medical malpractice common law.
If you are bringing or responding to a tort claim, give Barbara a call. She can help you make a good decision about next steps and represent you with conviction in a legal action.
Types Of Tort Claims
The essence of a tort claim is that an individual has either engaged in a wrongful act or behaved in a manner to interfere with the rights of another. Another way to frame the same concept is that a civil wrong has occurred that causes another to sustain a loss, such as the wrongful seizure of a companion animal. Another type of tort claim is to seek an injunction to prevent the continuation of tortious conduct or to achieve monetary damages.
Typical tort claims brought in animal law include when there has been negligent or intentional behavior. Examples of torts include:
- Products liability
- Negligent behavior
- Negligent infliction of distress
- Invasion of privacy
If you want to bring a tort action or are a defendant in one already initiated, give Barbara Gislason a call to schedule an appointment. In preparation for your appointment, it is cost effective to organize your information, possible exhibits and related documentation in chronological order and consider the key facts and information.
If you expect to be a defendant in a tort action, call Barbara and she can help you make a good decision and reduce your risk. It is best to come in early so Barbara can do her best to help you to prevent the other party from developing a claim against you. She also believes that once an animal is in trouble, good people sometimes act out of fear and make poor decisions. Barbara will help you better understand your options and remind you to be sympathetic to anyone who has sustained a loss. Conscientious behavior and good manners are always a winning strategy.
If you believe your horse, dog, cat, or other companion animals has been subject to a wrongful death, contact Barbara Gislason to schedule an appointment. She can help you discuss all your rights with regard to the loss of your animal and help you develop a plan to effectuate justice.
Economic And Noneconomic Damages
From the standpoint of an injury caused to your animal, if Barbara can prove the other side is liable, the next issue is what types of damages are recoverable. Within the legal system, the general rule is that the owner of the injured or dead animal is limited to economic damages, which can range from replacement value of the animal all the way to reimbursement for costly veterinary services necessary to address the injury, together with other rehabilitation costs.
If the animal was killed, some courts might consider lifelong expenditures the owner made on behalf of the animal, such as dog training costs. In some instances, courts are receptive to awarding a type of economic damage, typically referred to as special damages. This type of claim typically arises when an animal does not belong to an identifiable breed. Also, because some judicial officers resent having animal law cases on their busy calendars, lawyers should be careful to present their cases in a straightforward and efficient manner. Barbara, who has had decades of experience in the courtroom, is comfortable there.
In addition to economic damages, the owner of an injured or dead animal may seek noneconomic damages. The essence of a noneconomic damage claim for those trying to advance the animal law jurisprudence is related to compensation for companionship loss. In human personal injury cases, noneconomic damage claims are where the big money is. For animal law cases, thus far, courts are focused on the suffering of the owner, but not on the suffering of what many still be called the animal property, even when they think of the animal as a family member. Courts typically wrestle with whether noneconomic damages are compensable with words such as negligent or intentional influence of emotional distress related to human suffering.
In the meantime, some lawyers have taken a different approach. Since animals are property, why not base damages on established property law principles such as sentimental property? The argument goes something like “The photograph of my grandmother and grandfather and the wedding ring of my mother have sentimental value to me, which I should be compensated for in damages. Why wouldn’t the same argument apply with regard to companionship loss?” Thus far, courts around the country have been reluctant to include companion animals within the definition of sentimental property. Recall the movie Catch 22.
Now that more than $50 billion dollars is spent on companion animals each year in the United States, this growing financial commitment to our nonhuman family members is reflected in the passage of an increasing number of laws that focus on animal welfare and will continue to evolve as judges and judicial officers, well-schooled in animal law at some of the best academic institutions in the United States, will have before them the test case that will serve as the basis for the appropriate development and expansion of the common law.
Barbara believes in the old judicial maxim, “When there is a wrong, there should be a remedy.” People who love their pets and companion animals believe they have the right to just compensation when they are harmed or killed. Barbara is an animal law pioneer who advocates for a more enlightened society.