Veterinarian Issues: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Animal Hospital of Elmont, Inc. v. Gianfrancisco 418 N.Y.S.2d 992 (N.Y.Dist.Ct., 1979)

In this New York case, defendant presented his puppy to plaintiff-animal hospital for treatment. After discussions between about the cost of the care, defendant apparently felt that he would not be allowed to retrieve the puppy from the hospital's possession. As a consequence, plaintiff sent a letter to defendant describing the balance owed, and stating that the hospital would retain the puppy for 10 more days after which it would "take care of the dog in accordance with the legal methods available to dispose of abandoned dogs." The issue on appeal is whether this letter qualified as noticed required by the Agriculture and Markets Act, Sec. 331. The court found that it did not comply with the statutory requirements and thus, plaintiff was responsible for defendant's loss of his puppy valued at $200 at trial. Plaintiff was entitled to a judgment on its complaint for the costs of care amounting to $309.

Anzalone v. Kragness 826 N.E.2d 472 (Ill. 2005)

A woman whose cat was attacked while being boarded at veterinarian's office brought claims against veterinarian and animal hospital.  Trial court dismissed claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and the Court of Appeals reversed holding dismissal was not warranted. 

Barney v. Pinkham 45 N.W. 694 (Neb. 1890)

Plaintiff was was the owner of a certain roan mare of the value of $200; that, on or about the 21st day of April, 1888, the said mare became and was sick with some disease then unknown to plaintiff in kind and character; that, at said date last aforesaid, and long prior thereto, the defendant claimed to be, and advertised and held himself out to the public to be, a veterinary surgeon, and asked to be employed as such in the treatment of sick and diseased horses.  The court held that a veterinary surgeon, in the absence of a special contract, engages to use such reasonable skill, diligence, and attention as may be ordinarily expected of persons in that profession. He does not undertake to use the highest degree of skill, nor an extraordinary amount of diligence. In other words, the care and diligence required are such as a careful and trustworthy man would be expected to exercise.  The case was remanded for determination of further proofs.

Bedford v. Jorden 698 P.2d 854 (Mont. 1985)

This action was brought by Dale C. Bedford, appellant, on an amended complaint on two counts seeking special damages in the amount of $750, unspecified general damages, and $50,000 in punitive damages against E.E. Jorden, a Billings, Montana veterinarian and his partnership. The first count of complaint alleges that the defendant, Dr. Jorden, willfully or by gross negligence broke, or allowed to be broken a wing of a parrot belonging to the appellant, Bedford. The second count alleges that Dr. Jorden and his business willfully, wantonly or maliciously failed to provide adequate care for the parrot. The court found that the interrogatories and depositions of all witnesses, including the appellant, indicate that there was no evidence produced that would establish a prima facie case of negligence, let alone intentional cruelty or inhumanity to animals.

Brockett v. Abbe 206 A.2d 447 (Conn.Cir.A.D. 1964)

Defendant-farmer filed a counterclaim for damages for the erroneous determination by the veterinarian that certain cow was not pregnant (plaintiff veterinarian used a "punch test" - where a fist is struck against the abdomen of a cow to determine pregnancy rather than the industry-standard rectal examination). As a result, defendant-farmer sold the cow for $170 versus the $550 he could have received for a pregnant cow.  The Court found that it was erroneous for the circuit court to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor, as diagnoses and scientific treatment are improper subjects for the doctrine. The mere proof that the diagnosis later on turned out to be erroneous is insufficient to support a judgment, the court stated.

Carroll v. Rock 469 S.E.2d 391 (Ga. App., 1996)

After plaintiff's cat escaped while at the defendant's animal hospital, Rock sued Dr. Carroll d/b/a The Animal Care Clinic for conversion or breach of bailment and emotional distress, seeking punitive damages and attorney fees.  The court agreed with Carroll that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on punitive and vindictive damages, as vindictive or punitive damages are recoverable only when a defendant acts maliciously, wilfully, or with a wanton disregard of the rights of others.  Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim also must fail because defendant's conduct was not outrageous or egregious. 

Carter v. Louisiana State University 520 S.O.2d 383 (La. 1988).

Plaintiff horse owner sought review by writ of the judgment of the Court of Appeal, First Circuit, State of Louisiana, which held in favor of defendants, a veterinarian and his insurer, in the owner's action for veterinary malpractice that had arisen from the amputation of a horse's tail. The court held defendants were not exculpated from liability under La. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 9:2794 and La. Civ. Code Ann. arts. 2316, 2320, where the horse had his tail wrapped too tightly resulting in avascular necrosis from loss of blood supply, gangrene, and amputation. The court held in favor of the owner, reversed the judgment of the appellate court, and reinstated the judgment of the trial court (including $34,000 in damages).

City of Houston v. Levingston Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2006 WL 241127 (Tex.App.-Hous. (1 Dist.))

A city veterinarian who worked for the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) brought an action against the city, arguing that he was wrongfully terminated under the Whistleblower’s Act. The vet contended that he reported several instances of abuses by BARC employees to the division manager. In upholding the trial court’s decision to award Levingston over $600,000 in damages, the appellate court ruled the evidence was sufficient to support a finding that the veterinarian was terminated due to his report . Contrary to the city’s assertion, the court held that BARC was an appropriate law enforcement authority under the Act to report violations of section 42.09 of the Texas Penal Code committed by BARC employees. Opinion Withdrawn and Superseded on Rehearing by City of Houston v. Levingston , 221 S.W.3d 204 (Tex. App., 2006).

City of Houston v. Levingston 221 S.W.3d 204 (Tx.App.-Hous.(1 Dist.) 2006)

This opinion substitutes City of Houston v. Levingston, 2006 WL 241127 (Tex.App.-Hous. (1 Dist.)), which is withdrawn.

Coy v. Ohio Veterinary Med. Licensing Bd. 2005 Ohio App. LEXIS 756

A veterinarian's license was revoked by the Ohio Veterinarian Medical Licensing Board and the vet challenged the revocation of his license.  The trial court found the vet guilty of gross incompetence and he appealed claiming there was no definition of gross incompetence in the statute.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court holding no specific definition was required.

Daughen v. Fox 539 A.2d 858 (Pa. Super. 1988)

Plaintiffs brought a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and loss of companionship after defendant animal hospital performed unnecessary surgery based on a mix-up of x-rays.  The court denied the first claim, finding the defendant's conduct did not meet the "extreme and outrageous" conduct test.  With regard to plaintiff's claim for loss of a unique chattel and for loss of the dog's companionship and comfort, the court observed that, under Pennsylvania law, a dog is personal property, and, under no circumstances under the law of Pennsylvania, may there be recovery for loss of companionship due to the death of an animal.  

DeLany v. Kriger Slip Copy, 2019 WL 1307453 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 20, 2019) This unpublished Tennessee case concerns a veterinary negligence action. The owners of a cat filed a wrongful death complaint against the cat's veterinarian and animal hospital after the cat was killed when the veterinarian wrongly placing a feeding tube into the cat's trachea rather than her esophagus, causing the cat to aspirate and die when she was fed through the tube. The trial court held that the defendants were not liable because the cat was so ill she was likely to die anyway, and thus dismissed the complaint. The cat was 10-years old when she was brought in because she was acting a "little slow" and had not eaten in a couple days. Through discovery and at trial, it was observed that the cat had a septic abscess on her liver with a 79% mortality rate. On appeal here, this court first took issue with the trial court's finding for causation in the negligence analysis. This court found that the evidence was "undisputed" that the cat died as a result of the improperly placed feeding tube, which was further supported by x-rays showing the feeding tube in the trachea rather than the esophagus. Because the trial court did not find causation, damages were not addressed. Here, the court noted that domestic pets are considered private property in Tennessee. The law is settled that a pet owner can recover for the wrongful death of his or her pet in the state. Further, Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-17-403 provides that a dog or cat owner is entitled to recover up to $5,000 in noneconomic damages for "the unlawful and intentional, or negligent, act of another or the animal of another . . ." but that no award of noneconomic damages is permitted in “an action for professional negligence against a licensed veterinarian.” While Mr. DeLany testified he considered the cat's fair market value at $5,000, another veterinarian joined as a defendant testified that a healthy cat has a value of around $75 and a sick cat has a value of $0.40. The appellate court stated that the calculation of damages is a matter for the fact-finder, and the case was remanded to the trial court to determine the appropriate amount of economic damages. This would include, but not be limited to, the medical bills incurred for Callie's treatment and the cost of replacing Callie, said the court.
Downing v. Gully, P.C. 915 S.W.2d 181 (Tex. App. 1996)

Appellant dog owners challenged the decision of the County Court at Law No. 2 of Tarrant County (Texas), which granted summary judgment in favor of appellee veterinary clinic in appellants' negligence, misrepresentation, and Deceptive Trade Practices Act claims. The court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of appellee veterinary clinic because appellee's veterinarians provided affidavits that were sufficiently factually specific, describing experience, qualifications, and a detailed account of the treatment, so that appellee negated the element of the breach of the standard of care, and because Deceptive Trade Practice Act claims did not apply to state licensed veterinarians.

Durocher v. Rochester Equine Clinic 629 A.2d 827 (N.H. 1993)

Plaintiff horse owner appealed from the orders of the Merrimack County Superior Court (New Hampshire), which dismissed his action for veterinarian malpractice for failure to designate an expert medical witness to prove that the owner's horse was permanently injured, and that defendant veterinarians' negligence caused such injury. On appeal, the court agreed that no medical expert testimony was necessary to determine whether a veterinarian was negligent in operating on the wrong animal. However, the court held that expert testimony was necessary to assist jurors in this case on the issues of causation and injury, and generally as to the standards of veterinary care.

Dyess v. Caraway 190 So.2d (666 La.App., 1966)

Plaintiff claimed damages for the death of five pedigreed Norwegian Elkhound puppies resulting from the negligence of defendant, Hugh L. Caraway, a duly licensed veterinarian. Specifically, defendant allegedly failed to make proper diagnostic tests, failed to give proper treatment for coccidia from which the puppy died, although the defendant had professional knowledge that the puppy was suffering from that disease, and failed to exercise the standard of care required by the average prudent veterinarian in the community. The court first noted the difficulty in diagnosing distemper. It also found the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in applicable in the instant case, primarily for the reason that the instant case involves a question of diagnosis and treatment of a professional nature which in itself requires judgment.

Eastep v. Veterinary Medical Examining Bd. 539 P.2d 1144 (Or.App. 1975)

Petitioner-veterinarian sought judicial review of veterinary medical examining board's denial of his application for renewal of his license to practice, and the permanent revocation of his right to practice veterinary medicine in Oregon.  The Court held that there was ample evidence ample evidence to support board's finding that petitioner was guilty of unprofessional conduct for misrepresentation to dog owner of surgical services allegedly rendered, whether the standard adopted be that of 'clear and convincing evidence,' as petitioner urges, or that of 'reliable, probative and substantial evidence' (ORS 183.480(7)(d)), as urged by respondent.

Elephant, Inc. v. Hartford Acc. & Indem. Co. 239 So.2d 692 (La.App., 1970)

A veterinarian agreed to house, transport, and care for an elephant at no charge other than the actual expenses incurred therewith. One evening, the elephant ingested some poison left in its stall by the veterinarian and later died.  On appeal of the trial court award to plaintiff, the Court disagreed with defendant’s contention that he, as a gratuitous depositary, could only be held liable for gross negligence, willful misconduct, or fraud. In fact, the civil code in Louisiana, states the burden of a depositary is "that of ordinary care which may be expected of a prudent man."  However, an  agreement between the parties was found to release Dr. Cane of liability from negligent acts.

Fackler v. Genetzky 595 N.W.2d 884 (Neb., 1999)

Plaintiffs sued defendant for the death of their racehorses resulting from alleged veterinary malpractice.  The court held that a genuine issue of material fact as to whether veterinarian's actions comported with professional standard of care in treating racehorses precluded summary judgment.  However, the owners were not entitled to recover damages for their emotional distress as result of veterinarian's alleged negligent destruction of horses.  Nebraska law has generally regarded animals as personal property and emotional damages cannot be had for the negligent destruction of personal property.

Folsom v. Barnett 306 S.W.2d 832 (Ky. 1957)

Defendant-veterinarian sought appeal of a judgment against him for malpractice resulting from the injury to plaintiff’s thoroughbred colt that resulted in its destruction. The Court of Appeals held that an examination of the record revealed that sufficient evidence was produced to put in issue the question of whether appellant used such skill and attention as may ordinarily be expected of careful and skillful persons in his profession. Thus, the issue was correctly submitted to a jury.

Gabriel v. Lovewell 164 S.W.3d 835 (Texas, 2005)

A Texas horse owner brought action against horse farm for negligence and breach of implied warranty in connection with the death of a horse in care of horse farm. On appeal of a decision in favor of the horse owner, the Court of Appeals held that by asking veterinarian if veterinarian told the horse owner that the horse died because it was not brought to veterinary clinic soon enough, the horse farm opened the door, and thus, the previously-rejected hearsay testimony regarding horse owner's conversation with veterinarian was admissible for limited purpose of impeaching veterinarian's testimony. Thus, the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the jury's verdict.

Gilman v. Nevada State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners 89 P.3d 1000 (Nev. 2004)

The Slensky's took their ill beagle to Defendant's Animal Hospital for routine vaccinations and examinations due to the dog's loose stools for four days.  X-rays of the dog were taken, and when the dog was returned to the Slensky's, where it then collapsed.  Defendant instructed them to take the dog to the emergency clinic, where it later died.  The family filed a complaint with the Nevada State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, and Defendant was later convicted of gross negligence and incompetence, an ethics violation, and for using an unlicensed veterinary technician.  His license was suspended and he was placed on probation.  The Court held that Defendant:  (1) could be assessed costs of the proceeding; (2) he could not be assessed attorney's fees; (3) the Board could award expert witness fees above the statutory cap; (4) the Board failed to justify the imposition of costs for an investigator; and (5) statutes did not permit the employment of an unlicensed veterinary technician.

Gomez v. Innocent 765 S.E.2d 405 (Ga.App., 2014) Josh Gomez took his dog, Pilot, to Pet First Animal Hospital because Pilot was lethargic and throwing up. Gary Innocent, the veterinarian, diagnosed Pilot with parvo virus that could have killed him if left untreated. Innocent gave Gomez an estimate of $1,453.25 for the dog’s care. The animal hospital required full payment up front, but Gomez could not afford to pay so Innocent accepted $400 for one night’s care. Gomez left the dog for the night and called the following day. He was informed that he owed an additional $751.25. Gomez paid the $751.25 on the following day. Upon picking up Pilot from the animal hospital he was informed that he owed an additional $484.80. Gomez could not pay the $484.80 so Innocent asked Gomez to leave Pilot at the animal hospital until the bill was paid. Gomez obliged and left Pilot there. After Pilot was at the animal hospital for 20 days, a good Samaritan paid the dog’s accrued bill of $972. Gomez sued, alleging that Innocent and PetFirst breached their contract by refusing to return the dog after he paid the amounts agreed to, but before he paid “additional sums not agreed to by the parties in their initial contract.” The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Innocent and PetFirst. This appeal followed. Gomez claimed that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed as to the validity of the veterinary lien statute. The Court stated that Innocent was a licensed veterinarian who, at Gomez’s request, treated Gomez’s dog. Gomez signed a treatment authorization form and was informed that all professional fees were due at the time services were rendered. A detailed written estimate of the expected treatments and costs was given to Gomez which stated that the total final bill could vary from the estimate. Gomez did not present any evidence creating an issue of material fact as to the accuracy or validity of any of the charges on the itemized bill that Innocent produced. Innocent met his burden by showing that he acted properly in relying on the veterinary lien statute to retain the dog when Gomez failed to pay. The Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.
Gonzalez v. South Texas Veterinary Associates, Inc. 2013 WL 6729873 (Tex. App. Dec. 19, 2013), review denied (May 16, 2014) Plaintiff acquired an indoor/outdoor cat with an unknown medical and vaccination history. Plaintiff took cat to defendant for treatment and the cat received a vaccination. The cat soon developed a golf-ball-sized mass that contained a quarter-sized ulceration which was draining “matter” on the cat's right rear leg. When plaintiff returned the cat to the defendant, defendant diagnosed the cat with an infection, prescribed an antibiotic for treatment, and instructed Gonzalez to return if the cat's symptoms did not improve. When the cat's symptoms did not improve, plaintiff took the cat to another veterinarian who diagnosed the cat with vaccine-associated sarcoma. The cat had to be eventually euthanized. Acting pro se, the plaintiff filed suit, alleging that defendant failed to: (1) inform her of vaccine-associated sarcoma risk; (2) adhere to feline vaccination protocols; and (3) properly diagnose vaccine-associated sarcoma in the cat, which resulted in the loss of her life. On appeal, plaintiff asserted that the trial court erred by granting defendant's no-evidence and traditional motions for summary judgment. After examining the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff and disregarding all contrary evidence and inferences, the court concluded that the plaintiff brought forth more than a scintilla of probative evidence establishing the relevant standard of care to prove her malpractice claims. The trial court, therefore, erred by granting the no-evidence summary judgment. On the traditional summary judgment claim, the court held that that the defendant's evidence did not conclusively prove that a veterinarian complied with the applicable standard of care in light of another veterinarian's report to the contrary. The trial court, therefore, erred by granting defendant's traditional motion for summary judgment. The case was reversed and remanded.
Greives v. Greenwood 550 N.E.2d 334 (Ind.App. 4 Dist.,1990)

Cattle breeders sued veterinarian who negligently vaccinated two cows leading to slaughter of one and quarantine of the herd was quarantined. The Court of Appeals held that breeders: (1) could not recover lost profits from unborn and future unborn calves; (2) could not recover damages for injury to business reputation; (3) could not recover for default in payment of financial obligations or collection procedures brought against them; (4) were properly allowed to present evidence as to the loss of net profits as result of cancellation of spring production sale and subsequent delay in selling animals; and (5) interest expense was not a variable cost for purposes of action.

Hendrickson v. Tender Care Animal Hospital Corporation 312 P.3d 52 (2013) Dog owner brought claims of professional negligence, negligent misrepresentation, lack of informed consent, reckless breach of a bailment contract, and emotional distress after her golder retriever, Bear, died following a routine neutering procedure. After the surgery, Bear was bloated and vomiting, and the owner alleged that the animal hospital failed to properly inform her of his condition. As a result, the owner treated Bear with a homeopathic remedy instead of the prescription medication given to her by the hospital and Bear's condition worsened and eventually caused his death.
Hitchcock v. Conklin 669 N.E.2d 563 (Ohio Ct. App. 1995)

Appellant dog owners sought review of the decision from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (Ohio), which granted the motion to dismiss filed by appellee veterinarian on the basis that the breach of contract and negligence action filed against the veterinarian was barred by the one-year statute of limitations on malpractice claims under Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2305.11(A). On appeal, the court reversed and held that § 2305.11(A) applied only to physicians, attorneys, and other professional specifically delineated in the statute, not veterinarians. The court reversed the dismissal of the owners' breach of contract and negligence action filed against the veterinarian and remanded for further proceedings.

Hoffa v. Bimes 954 A.2d 1241 (Pa.Super.,2008)

This case arises from the treatment of plaintiff's horse by the defendant-veterinarian. This appeal arises from plaintiff's claim that the trial court erred in granting a compulsory non-suit in favor of defendant finding that the Veterinary Immunity Act bars claims against veterinarians except those based upon gross negligence. This court agreed with the lower court that defendant was confronted with an emergency medical condition such as to fall under the protections of the Act. Further, this court held that the trial court committed no error in concluding that plaintiff's consent was not required before the veterinarian performed the abdominal tap because that procedure was rendered under an 'emergency situation.'

Hohenstein v. Dodds 10 N.W.2d 236 (Minn. 1943) This is an action against a licensed veterinarian to recover damages for his alleged negligence in the diagnosis and treatment of plaintiff's pigs.  Plaintiff alleged defendant-veterinarian negligently vaccinated his purebred pigs for cholera.  The court held that a n expert witness's opinion based on conflicting evidence which he is called upon to weigh is inadmissible.  Further, a n expert witness may not include the opinion of another expert witness as basis for his own opinion.  
In the Matter of Kerlin 376 A.2d 939 (N.J.Super.A.D. 1977)

Respondent Raymond Kerlin, D.V.M., appealed a decision of the Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs, Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (Board), finding him guilty of "gross malpractice or gross neglect" in the practice of veterinary medicine after an employee at his office (his wife) stated that the office could not treat a deathly ill kitten after the owners requested payment by credit (apparently not accepted at the office).  In this case, the court observed nothing in the findings of facts to support a conclusion that respondent was aware of the exchange which occurred between the kitten’s owner and Mrs. Kerlin in time for him to have prevented the situation or to have taken remedial steps. Nothing adduced at trial proved that Dr. Kerlin followed the policy of rejecting requests for emergency treatment on credit. Thus, the court concluded that the State failed to establish that respondent was guilty of a violation or of conduct warranting disciplinary action for "gross malpractice", and the decision of the Board was reversed. 

Jakubaitis v. Fischer 33 Cal. App. 4th 1601 (1995) This case, as an issue of first impression, considers whether Civil Code section 3051 or 30801 governs a dispute involving a veterinary lien for services rendered to a horse. In 1994, Frank and Tara Jakubaitis took their blood-bay horse to Chino Valley Equine Hospital for emergency medical care. Theodore Fischer is the veterinarian that treated the horse, who was hospitalized from February of 1994 to early March of 1994. A letter was sent to the Jukabaitises stating that they had an outstanding balance due of $9,751 and that the horse would not be released until the balance was paid. The letter also informed them that if no payment was made within 10 days, the horse would be sold. The Jukabaitises did not pay for the veterinary services within 10 days, however, the veterinary hospital’s attempts to sell the horse were unsuccessful and the horse remained in the possession of Fischer. The Jakubaitises then sued the hospital, seeking injunctive relief and alleging conversion, claim, and delivery and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The trial court had ordered Fisher to return the horse to the Jakubaitises upon them posting a $500 bond. Fischer then brought this appeal. The case came down to the interpretation of various sections of California law. The trial court impliedly found section 3080 of the California Code to be controlling and sections 3051 and 3052 to be inapt. Section 3051 recognizes veterinary proprietors’ and veterinary surgeons’ lien rights for compensation in caring for, boarding, feeding, and medically treating animals. Section 3052 permits the lienholder, after giving notice to the debtor, to sell the animal at public auction. Section 3080 and 3080.01 govern liens applying to livestock servicers. Essentially, a veterinarian’s services could fall under either of the sections because the term “livestock service” in section 3080 included the term “veterinary services.” Eventually the legislature revised the definition of livestock services in section 3080 and deleted the reference to veterinary services. The Court concluded that the legislature’s intent was clear. Section 3051 continues to govern veterinarian proprietors’ and veterinary surgeons’ lien rights. Section 3080 governs all other livestock service providers. The Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s decision, ordered the horse to be returned to Fischer, the veterinarian, and discharged the bond that was to be paid by the Jakubaitises.
Jason v. Parks 638 N.Y.S.2d 170 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept., 1996)

In an action, inter alia, to recover damages for veterinary malpractice, the plaintiffs appeal.  The court reaffirmed that it is well established that a pet owner in New York cannot recover damages for emotional distress caused by the negligent destruction of a dog.

Johnson v. Wander 592 So. 2d. 1225 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1992)

Petitioner pet owner alleged that respondent veterinarian took her dog to be spayed, and left the animal on heating pads, which resulted in serious burns, so petitioner filed a claim for damages on the basis of gross negligence, damage to property, and emotional distress. The trial court entered partial summary judgments on the claims for punitive damages and emotional distress and, on a subsequent motion, transferred the case to the county court as a claim for less than the circuit court jurisdictional amount.  The appellate court held that there remained a jury question on the issues of gross negligence and physical and mental pain and suffering as claimed by petitioner.

Kaufman v. Langhofer 222 P.3d 272 (Ariz.App. Div. 1, 2009)

This Arizona based appeal arises out of a veterinary malpractice action filed by plaintiff/appellant David Kaufman against defendants/appellees, William Langhofer, DVM, and Scottsdale Veterinary Clinic over the death of Salty, Kaufman's scarlet macaw. The main issue on appeal is whether a pet owner is entitled to recover emotional distress and loss of companionship damages over the death of his or her pet. Plaintiff argues that the court here should “expand” Arizona common law to allow a pet owner to recover emotional distress damages and damages for loss of companionship in a veterinarian malpractice action. While the court acknowledged the emotional distress Kaufman suffered over Salty's death, it noted that Dr. Langhofer's negligence did not directly harm Kaufman. Thus, the court felt that it would not be appropriate to expand Arizona common law to allow a pet owner to recover emotional distress or loss of companionship damages because that would offer broader compensation for the loss of a pet than for the loss of a human.

Kennedy v. Byas 867 So.2d 1195 (D. Fla. 2004)

Plaintiff filed for a Writ of Certiorari requesting that his case be transfered from circuit court to county court.  He was seeking damages for emotional distress, following alleged veterinary malpractice by the defendant.  The Court held that Florida would not consider pets to be part of an actual family, that damages for emotional distress will not be permitted, and therefore the plaintiff did not have sufficient damages to met the circuit court jurisdictional amount.   Petition denied..

Knowles Animal Hospital, Inc. v. Wills 360 So.2d 37 (Fla.App.,1978)

Dog owners brought negligence action against veterinarian and animal hospital after their dog suffered injuries while under the veterinarian's and the hospital's care. The Appeals Court held that the trial court did not err by allowing the jury to consider plaintiff-owners' mental pain and suffering, and that the jury could reasonably have viewed defendants' neglectful conduct resulting in the dog's injury to have amounted to great indifference to plaintiffs' property.

Koester v. VCA Animal Hosp. 624 N.W.2d 209 (Mich. App., 2000); lv. app. den. 631 N.W. 2d 339 (Mich. 2001)

Plaintiff pled damages that included plaintiff's pain and suffering, extreme fright, shock, mortification, and the loss of the companionship of his dog after negligent treatment by defendant animal hospital killed his dog.  The court noted that there is no Michigan precedent that permits the recovery of damages for emotional injuries allegedly suffered as a consequence of property damage.  Although this Court is sympathetic to plaintiff's position, it chose to defer to the Legislature to create such a remedy.

Ladnier v. Norwood 781 F.2d 490 (5th Cir. 1986).

Plaintiff horse owner sought review of a judgment of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which found in favor of defendants, veterinarian and insurer, in an action to recover damages for the death of plaintiff's horse. The court affirmed the judgment that found defendants, veterinarian and insurer, not negligent in the death of a horse belonging to plaintiff horse owner because they met the statutorily required standard of care. Defendants did not breach a duty to warn because the risk of a fatal reaction to the drug they gave to the horse was common and was considered by equine specialists to be insubstantial.

Levine v. Knowles 197 So.2d 329 (Fla.App. 1967)

This negligence action for both compensatory and punitive damages results from the premature cremation of 'Tiki,' a Toy Chihuahua dog, who died while undergoing apparently routine treatment for a skin condition. Plaintiff instructed the veterinarian to keep Tiki's body so that he could have an autopsy performed, but the dog's body was cremated before it could be claimed so that, according to plaintiff, defendant could avoid malpractice claims. 

In this case, the court only determined that under the facts peculiar to this case, an action for damages was sufficiently alleged by the complaint and the defendant has failed to conclusively demonstrate the non-existence of all material issues of fact so as to be entitled to a summary final judgment.

Lindsey v. Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners Not Reported in S.W. Rptr., 2018 WL 1976577 (Tex. App., 2018) In 2015, Kristen Lindsey, who is a licensed veterinarian, killed a cat on her property by shooting it through the head with a bow and arrow. Lindsey had seen the cat fighting with her cat and defecating in her horse feeders and believed the cat to be a feral cat. However, there was evidence that the cat actually belonged to the neighbor and was a pet. Lindsey posted a photo of herself holding up the dead cat by the arrow. The photo was shared repeatedly and the story ended up reported on several news outlets. The Board received more than 700 formal complaints and more than 2,700 emails about the incident. In 2016 the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (the Board) initiated disciplinary proceedings against Lindsey seeking to revoke her license and alleging violations of the Veterinary Licensing Act and Administrative Rules. While the proceeding was pending, Lindsey filed a petition for declaratory judgment and equitable relief in the trial court. The grand jury declined to indict her for animal cruelty. Due to this, Lindsey asserted that the Board lacked the authority to discipline her because she had not been convicted of animal cruelty and her act did not involve the practice of veterinary medicine. The administrative law judges in the administrative-licensing proceeding issued a proposal for decision and findings of fact and conclusions of law which the Board adopted and issued a final order suspending Lindsey's license for five years (with four years probated). Lindsey then filed a petition for judicial review in trial court after the Board denied her motion for a rehearing. The trial court affirmed the Board's final order. This case involves two appeals that arise from the disciplinary proceeding filed against Lindsey by the Board. Lindsey appeals the first case (03-16-00549-CV) from the trial court denying her motion for summary judgment and granting the Board's motion for summary judgment and dismissing her suit challenging the Board's authority to bring its disciplinary action. In the second case (17-005130-CV), Lindsey appeals from the trial court affirming the Board's final decision in the disciplinary proceeding. Even though Lindsey was not convicted of animal cruelty, the Court of Appeals held that the Board possessed the authority to determine that the offense of animal cruelty was sufficiently connected to the practice of veterinary medicine. Lindsey also did not have effective consent from the neighbor to kill the cat. The Board had sufficient evidence that Lindsey tied her profession to the shooting of the cat through the caption that she put on the photo that was posted on social media. The Court of Appeals ultimately overruled Lindsey's challenges to the Board's authority to seek disciplinary action against her veterinary license in both appeals as well as her challenges regarding the findings of fact and conclusions by the administrative law judges. The Court affirmed the judgment in both causes of action.
Luethans v. Washington University 838 S.W.2d 117 (Mo.App. E.D. 1992) Plaintiff, a licensed veterinarian, appeals from the circuit court's order dismissing his case in a wrongful discharge case. Plaintiff contends that as an at-will employee he stated a cause of action for wrongful discharge under Missouri's public policy exception to the employment at-will doctrine. Specifically, he pleaded that he was retaliated against and discharged because he performed a regulatory protected activity, i.e., reporting violations of the Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2143. The court agreed and reversed and remanded.
Massa v. Department of Registration and Education 507 N.E.2d 814 (Ill. 1987)

Dr. Massa sought judicial review of the gross malpractice finding and resulting license revocation in the circuit court after the circuit court reversed the Department's finding of gross malpractice as a conclusion against the manifest weight of the evidence. This finding arises from the death of plaintiff’s German Shepard, after Dr. Massa removed the dog’s healthy uterus and ovaries, while failing to treat the dog’s soon-to-be fatal thoracic condition.  The Department's findings in this case could only be disturbed only upon Dr. Massa's showing that they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. The Court held that the record in this case was plainly sufficient to support the Department's determination of gross malpractice in that Dr. Massa ignored the serious nature of Charlie's lung condition and proceeded to remove reproductive organs which, at least at the time of surgery, he knew or should have known to have been healthy.

McAdams v. Faulk (unpublished) Not Reported in S.W.3d, 2002 WL 700956 (Ark.App.)

Dog owner brought dog to veterinarian’s office where someone choked the dog, causing injuries that led to its death. The Court of Appeals held that the owner stated a veterinary malpractice claim against veterinarian because owner alleged that dog was choked while in veterinarian's care, that veterinarian failed to diagnose neck injury that proved fatal, performed unnecessary treatment out of greed, and refused to provide owner with medical explanation of dog's condition and death, all in violation of the veterinary licensing statute. The Court also held that violating the cruelty to animals statute was evidence of negligence, and that damages included economic loss, compensation for mental anguish, including future anguish. and punitive damages.

McDonald v. Ohio State Univ. Veterinary Hospital 644 N.E.2d 750 (Ohio Ct.Cl., 1994)

After defendant filed a stipulation admitting liability for a botched surgery on defendant's show dog that ultimately led to euthanization, a trial was held as to the issue of damages.  Evidence adduced at trial showed that "Nemo" had been trained by plaintiff as a Schutzhund or "sport dog" in Schutzhund schooling.  The court noted that while dogs are considered personal property in Ohio and market value is the standard award for such personal property, market value in this case was merely a "guideline."  In addition to the loss of the specially trained dog, the court also found significant the loss of stud fees for the dog and potential future gains in sustaining the trial court's award of $5,000 in damages.  

McMahon v. Craig 176 Cal.App.4th 1502, 97 Cal.Rptr.3d 555 (Cal.App. 4 Dist., 2009)

In this California case, the plaintiff appealed a demurrer granted by the trial court on her claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress and portions of her complaint struck that sought damages for emotional distress and loss of companionship. The case stems from defendant-veterinarian's care of plaintiff's Maltese dog after surgery. Defendant also lied to plaintiff and falsified records concerning the treatment of the dog. On appeal of the trial court demurrer, this court held that an owner cannot recover emotional distress damages for alleged veterinary malpractice. The court found that it would be incongruous to impose a duty on a veterinarian to avoid causing emotional distress to the owner of the animal being treated, while not imposing such a duty on a doctor to the parents of a child receiving treatment.

Miller v. Peraino 626 A.2d 637 (Pa.Super., 1993)

The incident generating this dispute after two veterinary assistants claimed that Miller viciously beat plaintiff's dog Nera to death because he was having difficulty getting the dog from the basement recovery room to the waiting area upstairs where the dog would be picked up.  The sole issue on this appeal is the dismissal of plaintiff's cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress resulting from both the dog's death and the veterinarian's behavior during plaintiff's picketing of his business.  Relying on both the Restatement (Second) of Torts and a prior decision inDaughen v. Fox, the court held that intentional infliction of emotional distress cannot legally be founded upon a veterinarian's behavior toward an animal. 

Missouri Veterinary Medical Bd. v. Gray 397 S.W.3d 479 (Mo.App. W.D., 2013)

An unlicensed Missouri equine dentist (Brooke Rene Gray) appeals an order from the circuit court enjoining and prohibiting her from doing business as "B & B Equine Dentistry," where she performed equine tooth floating and other acts. In 2007, the Missouri Veterinary Medical Board informed Ms. Gray that she was violating Missouri law by practicing veterinary medicine without a license. After she did not cease her activities, the Board referred the matter to the Attorney General, who then filed a petition on behalf of the Board to enjoin Ms. Gray's activities. On appeal, Ms. Gray contends that the court order violates the Missouri Constitution, which guarantees all citizens the right to enjoy the "gains of their own industry." The court disagreed, finding that the State has a strong interest in regulating practices that involve public safety as is the case with veterinary medicine.

Nikolic v. Seidenberg 610 N.E.2d 177 (Ill. App. Ct. 1993)

When the pet owner adopted a dog, she signed a contract agreeing to have her dog spayed at the vet's facility and to return the dog to the vet if it was sick. For days after the surgery the dog was ill so the other vet performed exploratory surgery and repaired a cut in the dog's intestine. The pet owner filed an action to recover the medical expenses and the lower court granted the vet's motion to dismiss.  The reviewing court held that the language in the contract was not sufficiently clear and explicit to exculpate the vet from negligence because the vet was not a party to the contract and thus not a direct beneficiary of the contract.

Posnien v. Rogers 533 P.2d 120 (Utah 1975)

The plaintiff sought to recover damages for the defendant's negligence in the diagnosis and the treatment of plaintiff's brood mare, which resulted in the mare's infertility. Plaintiff was required to show that Dr. Rogers did not exercise the care and diligence as is ordinarily exercised by skilled veterinarians doing the same type of work in the community, and that the failure to exercise the required skill and care was the cause of the injury. Experts testified at trial that the care exercised by Dr. Rogers met the standard of care of veterinarians practicing in the area, and had they been treating the mare, the treatment would not have differed substantially from that of Dr. Rogers.  The Supreme Court held that the record is clear that the plaintiff failed to sustain his burden that the care of Dr. Rogers did not meet the standard of care of other practitioners practicing in the community.

Price v. Brown 680 A.2d 1149 (Pa. 1996)

The issue presented in this appeal is whether a complaint based upon an alleged breach of a bailment agreement states a cause of action for injury or death suffered by an animal that has been entrusted to a veterinarian for surgical and professional treatment.  The court agreed with the trial court that the purpose for which an animal is entrusted to the care of a veterinarian is a material fact that must be considered in determining whether a plaintiff's complaint states a cause of action as a matter of law, and that Price's complaint failed to state a cause of action for professional negligence.  The court held that allegations of breach of a bailment agreement are insufficient to state a cause of action against a veterinarian who has performed surgery on an animal when the animal suffers an injury as a result or does not survive the surgery.  

Price v. Brown, V.M.D. 131 Montg. Co. L. R. 150 (1994) Plaintiff's bull dog went to defendant veterinarian for surgery to correct a prolapsed urethra. The dog died a few days later. The plaintiff then sought to recover the value of the dog on a strict theory of bailment. Defendant filed a preliminary objection asserting that this doctrine was inapplicable and could not afford relief. The court held that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim from which relief could be sought and dismissed the complaint. The court, however, allowed the plaintiff to amend the compliant.In holding to sustain the defendant's preliminary objection, the court reasoned that since veterinarians are part of a professional discipline, in order to recover damages for the injury or the death to an animal entrusted to a veterinarian's care, a plaintiff must prove professional negligence instead of a bailiff arrangement.

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