To its owner, a pet dog may be priceless – and even though Georgia’s highest court didn’t go quite that far Monday, it did say that under some circumstances, an owner whose pet is hurt or dies at the hands of another may seek to recoup more than its fair market value.
The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that when a pet is injured or killed by someone else’s negligence, the owners may also try to collect costs incurred trying to save the animal.
The unanimous Georgia Supreme Court opinion written by Chief Justice Hugh Thompson acknowledges the case deals with a subject “near and dear to the heart of many a Georgian in that it involves the untimely death of a beloved family pet,” and how to measure damages when the pet is hurt or killed because of negligence.
Under Georgia law, Thompson wrote, the owners can’t seek damages based on the sentimental value of the animal to its owner. He said “the unique human-animal bond, while cherished, is beyond legal measure.”
But he also cited a 19th century Georgia Supreme Court opinion involving the injury or death of animal. It says that if an animal is injured through negligence and dies as a result of those injuries, the owner can seek the animal’s market value, plus interest and “expenses incurred by the owner in an effort to cure the animal.”
Robert and Elizabeth Monyak sued the Barking Hound Village kennel in Atlanta and its manager, claiming negligence, fraud, and deceit in the death of their dog Lola.
The Monyaks boarded their two dogs – Lola, an 8 1/2-year-old dachshund mix, and Callie, a 13-year-old mixed Labrador retriever – at Barking Hound Village for 10 days in May 2012. The Monyaks say kennel staff gave Lola medication intended for Callie, which they say caused kidney failure that led to her death nine months later.
The kennel looks forward to proving to the lower court that it didn’t cause any harm or damage and remains “passionate and strongly committed to the quality care of all dogs,” spokeswoman Liz Lapidus said in an email.
The Monyaks are seeking to recover damages, including more than $67,000 to treat Lola.
Robert Monyak said he’s very pleased with the high court’s decision, adding that he believes the court reached a just and fair conclusion.
The court’s opinion elaborates on what may be used to determine market value, saying “we see no reason why opinion evidence, both qualitative and quantitative, of an animal’s particular attributes – e.g. breed, age, training, temperament, and use – should be any less admissible than similar evidence offered in describing the value of other types of personal property.”
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