Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Damages for Injury to a Dog

This summer, the District Court Appellate Division heard a case (Irwin v. Deresh, 2012 Mass. App. Div. 142) in which a dog was attacked and injured by a second dog, and the question of appropriate damages was addressed. The court declined to hold that damages should be limited to the "diminution in value of the dog", or the fair "market value of the dog." Instead, the court held that the plaintiff could recover reasonable veterinary costs for the dog's treatment, in excess of $8,000, saying,

"Without romanticizing the relationship between a domesticated animal and its owner, we find that household pets, and dogs in particular, belong to a unique category of personal property ... Determining damages in the case of injury to a dog involves different considerations than with other types of personal property. A dog should not be placed in the same category as an automobile or appliance, whose market value and replacement cost can be determined with a high degree of accuracy. Limiting damages to the market value of a dog or measuring damages by the diminution in market value would not be a fair and reasonable measure of the owner’s loss....
"Awarding plaintiffs the reasonable amount paid in veterinary costs was well within the trial court’s proper exercise of discretion and wholly consistent with the goal of returning the plaintiffs to the position they were in prior to the wrongful conduct."