pets more than property
Appeals Court awards damages in pet abuse lawsuit
The Associated Press
Oregonian - 5/27/2006
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Pet owners didn't need the Washington Court of Appeals to tell them that pets are more than property, but the owner of a cat who was set afire by teenagers nearly three years ago may get some comfort from a court ruling this past week.
The ruling by the Spokane branch of the appeals court recognizes legally what pet owners already knew, Bellingham attorney Adam Karp said: "The relationship we have with a pet is not the same as we have with a washing machine."
Karp, who specializes in animal law, represented Max's owner, Bernadette Womack, in a lawsuit against three youths who poured gasoline on Max and put a match to him near Chase Middle School. Max was so severely burned he had to be euthanized three days later.
Womack appealed a ruling in which Spokane County Superior Court Judge Jerome Leveque took the traditional position that pets are valued as property.
"Although Max was a beloved family pet providing comfort and companionship to the Womack family, market value can be established for similarly situated 2-year-old tomcats," Leveque wrote in a ruling that nevertheless awarded Womack $5,000 for her emotional distress.
A three-judge Court of Appeals panel said Thursday: "For the first time in Washington, we hold malicious injury to a pet can support a claim for, and be considered a factor in measuring, a person's emotional distress damages."
Karp believes the ruling may lead to above-market-value awards for negligent, as well as malicious, injuries to pets. But he conceded other attorneys may not share his interpretation.
He also conceded the ruling had little effect in Max's case. It was a matter of losing a battle and winning a war. The Court of Appeals upheld Leveque's ruling on all points except the amount of interest Womack is entitled to receive on any unpaid portion of Leveque's award.
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Here is a link to the original news story in 2003:
Owner sues Valley cat killers for damages
Lawsuit against teens, parents unprecedented, attorney says
Spokesman Review - October 25, 2003
This was the outcome of a completely separate Washington state cat lawsuit in 2005:
Woman awarded $45,000 in cat death
Damages for dog mauling may be feline record
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER - Monday, May 9, 2005
As a result, her compensation for the pet ties the record-high jury award of $30,000 in a California veterinary malpractice suit, Bluestone v. Bergstrom, for a pet's "unique" value, Karp said.
Judge Barbara Linde also awarded $15,000 for Roemer's emotional distress
Karp said the $45,480 award is significant partly because it's the first to indicate that feline companions are as valuable as canines. Americans' tendency to value dogs more than cats "is just completely insane," he said.
The fact that the judgment in Roemer's case came from a judge rather than a jury was significant, said Wolcher, the professor.
A current Oregon dog case .....
Case could redefine the value of Fido to family
Oregonian - May 22, 2006
OREGON CITY -- An Estacada family will ask a jury this week to award $1.625 million for the loss of its dog, Grizz, in a case that could help redefine the way courts view the bond between people and their pets.
Dog case companion definition is rejected
A suit against a man who killed a family's pet goes on, but loss of companionship is ruled out
Oregonian - May 24, 2006
OREGON CITY -- A judge on Tuesday threw out part of a $1.625 million lawsuit that is bringing national and international attention to the emotional issue of determining the value of family pets.
Clackamas County Circuit Judge Eve L. Miller excluded a loss-of-companionship claim but will allow what is now a $1.325 million lawsuit to proceed against an Estacada man convicted of intentionally running over his neighbor's 14-year-old dog, injuring the animal so severely it was euthanized.
Convicted dog abuser testifies in civil suit
Oregonian - May 26, 2006
OREGON CITY -- An Estacada man defending himself in a $1.325 million lawsuit refused to answer directly Thursday when asked whether he intended to kill his neighbor's dog when he hit it with his pickup.
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If this topic interests you, see the Damages in Pet (Companion Animal) Cases section at the Animal Legal and Historical Center.