This article argues that allowing non-economic damages in pet cases is unsound public policy and contravenes traditional tort rules of damages. Further, the authors suggest that legislative attempts to cap non-economic damages in pet cases are not a helpful compromise. Allowing non-economic damages ignores established common law principles in tort law and will potentially harm animals by raising the cost of veterinary care.
Reprinted with permission from
PEPPERDINE LAW REVIEW
Volume 33, Number 2, 2006
Copyright 2006 by the Pepperdine University School of Law
From the authors' Introduction:
This article will describe these potential changes and the public policy implications of changing the rules of damages in animal law. After briefly describing the traditional rules of damages in tort law, an important predicate to understanding the current unsound impetus to change, this article will set forth the established law of damages with respect to pets and other animals. It will show how the movement to allow non-economic damages in pet cases assaults fundamental principles of animal law. It will also demonstrate several reasons why allowing non-economic damages in pet cases is unsound public policy. Next, this article will explain how allowing non-economic damages in pet cases, particularly in those involving mere negligence, harms veterinarians, manufacturers of pet medications, pet owners, and even pets themselves. Finally, it will then show that capping non-economic damages in pet suits is not a helpful compromise, but a dangerous misstep that is to be avoided