Veterinarian Issues: Related Cases

Case name Citationsort descending Summary
Hines v. Quillivan --- F.3d ----, 2020 WL 7054278 (5th Cir. Dec. 2, 2020) This case asks whether a veterinarian in Texas has a right to engage in telemedicine for a pet he has not physically examined. The plaintiff challenged Texas' physical-examination requirement that prohibits veterinarians from offering individualized advice to pet owners unless the vet previously examined the animal. Dr. Ronald Hines, a licensed veterinarian in Texas, stopped practicing in-person veterinary medicine in 2002 due to his age and other ailments. He then transitioned to a practice based remotely through the Internet. In 2012, the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (the Board) investigated Hines and found he had violated state law. The Board ordered him to cease providing veterinary advice electronically without first physically examining the animal. In 2013, Dr. Hines filed suit against the Board members claiming that the physical-examination requirement violated his First Amendment, equal-protection, and substantive-due-process rights. The district court then granted the motion to dismiss by the Board and the Court of Appeals found Hines failed to state a claim on appeal. Since that 2015 opinion, Texas revised its medical doctor laws, allowing them to engage in telemedicine, but did not do the same for veterinary practice laws. In addition to that change, a United States Supreme Court held that statements made by medical doctors could now be deemed "professional speech" (the "NIFLA" case). As a result of these changes, Hines brought the present suit arguing that the changes in Texas' telemedicine laws and the NIFLA case enabled him to pursue a new equal-protection claim and First Amendment claim. With regard to his protected speech claim, this Court found that subsequent caselaw does entitle Hines' claim to greater judicial scrutiny than his previous case allowed. Thus, remand to the district court to make the initial evaluation of whether Hines' conduct or speech is being regulated is required. On the equal-protection argument, the court found that Hines presents an argument slightly different than his previous one. In essence, Hines argued in the prior appeal that the he physical-examination requirement treated veterinarians engaging in telemedicine differently than other veterinarians. Here, Hines argues that changes to the medical doctor licensing laws treats medical doctors differently than veterinarians in the state with respect to telemedicine. Using a rational-basis review, the court held that it is rational to distinguish between human and animal medicine because of the differences in training, schooling, and overall practice of the professions. The court found the state's proffered reason that animals cannot communicate their symptoms as humans can ordinarily was a persuasive rational basis (although both Hines and the Dissent note that some humans like infants are unable to speak similar to animals and yet are allowed to be treated via telemedicine). The court found the services provided by both professions are not interchangeable and thus, the physical-examination requirement is not a protectionist measure for medical doctors. Ultimately, the court left it to the Texas legislature to expand any telemedicine changes to the veterinary practice code. The action was affirmed in part, reversed and remanded in part.
State v. Avella --- So.3d ----, 2019 WL 2552529 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. June 21, 2019) The Defendant was charged with practicing veterinary medicine without a license and for cruelty to animals. The Defendant made a homemade device attempting to treat his dog for a problem because he did not have the money to take his dog to the vet. The home treatment ended up injuring the dog and he took the dog to a veterinarian for treatment. The veterinarian stated that the dog needed to be taken to an advanced care veterinary facility, however, the Defendant could not do so due to lack of funds. The trial court dismissed the charges brought against the Defendant and the State of Florida appealed. Florida law forbids a person from practicing veterinary medicine without a license. The Defendant was not a veterinarian. The Defendant relied upon statutory exemptions in Florida’s statue that permit a person to care for his or her own animals and claims that he was just trying to help his dog, Thor. The Defendant also argued that the purpose of the statute was to prevent unlicensed veterinary care provided to the public rather than to criminalize the care an owner provides to his or her animals. The Court held that the trial court did not err in dismissing Count I for unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine given the stated purpose of the statute and the statutory exemptions. As for Count II, animal cruelty, the State argued that the Defendant’s conduct in using a homemade tool to remove bone fragments from the dog’s rectum and then failing to take the dog to an advanced care clinic fits under the Florida animal cruelty statute. Although the Defendant argued that he had no intention of inflicting pain upon his dog and was only trying to help him, the Court agreed with the State’s argument that “the statute does not require a specific intent to cause pain but punishes an intentional act that results in the excessive infliction of unnecessary pain or suffering.” Ultimately the Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of Count I, reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Count II and remanded for further proceedings on the animal cruelty charge.
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.  
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.
Scharer v. San Luis Rey Equine Hosp., Inc. 147 Cal.Rptr.3d 921 (Cal.App. 4 Dist.)

Horse owner sued veterinarians and equine hospital for professional malpractice after horse was euthanized less than two months after surgery to remove horse’s ovaries. The Superior Court granted summary judgment for defendants based on the one-year statute of limitations. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that equitable tolling did not apply because plaintiff was not prevented from pursuing her claim in a timely manner by the defendants or the court. A provision in the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act extending the statute of limitations by 90 days did not apply absent a claim for personal injury or wrongful death to a person.

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.

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.

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.

Sherman v. Kissinger 195 P.3d 539 (Wash.,2008)

A dog owner sued a veterinarian and a veterinary hospital after her dog died. The Court of Appeals held that the medical malpractice act did not apply to veterinarians, and thus, did not bar claims for breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, conversion, trespass to chattels, and breach of bailment contract; the three-part analysis in McCurdy controlled the measure of damages and the burden of proof for damages; genuine issues of material fact about the market value of the dog, whether it could be replaced, and whether owner was entitled to present evidence of the dog’s intrinsic value, precluded summary judgment limiting owner's damages; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in striking expert’s testimony about the loss of the human-animal bond because owner was not entitled to emotional distress damages; and defendants were not entitled to attorney fees under the small claims statute.

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.

Williams v. Neutercorp (Unpublished) 1995 Tex. App. LEXIS 833 (Tex Ct. App. Apr. 20, 1995).

Appellant sought review of the order from the County Court dismissing appellant's lawsuit after it sustained the special exception filed by appellee company, appellee animal hospital, and appellee veterinarian in appellant's suit which alleged negligence and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. § 17.50.  The special execption is that the Veterinary Licensing Act, Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 8890, 18C, expressly provided that the DTPA did not apply in veterinary malpractice cases.The court affirmed the lower court's order dismissing appellant's suit against appellees because the lower court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing appellant's pleadings with prejudice, after the lower court sustained the special exception regarding the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, and after appellant refused to amend her pleading.

Veterinary Surgeons Investigating Committee v. Lloyd 2002 WL 31928523, 134 A Crim R 441

Appeal of agency determination of veterinarian malpractice for failure to detect ring worms in a cat. Long case with full discussion of process of administrative hearing and the standards by which to decide if an action is malpractice.

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.

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.
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.

Ruden v. Hansen 206 N.W.2d 713 (Iowa 1973)

This appeal stems from an action against a defendant veterinarian for the alleged negligent vaccination of plaintiff’s pregnant hogs (gilts).  The court articulated the standard of care: "As a veterinarian defendant was duty bound to bring to his service the learning, skill and care which characterizes the profession generally. In other words, the care and diligence required was that as a careful and trustworthy veterinarian would be expected to exercise. . . We are convinced the correct standard of the veterinarian's care should be held to that exercised generally under similar circumstances."

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.

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.

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.

Southall v. Gabel 277 N.E.2d 230 (Ohio App. 1971)

This case resulted from the alleged negligent transport of a horse that resulted in a drastic change in the horse's temperament (to a "killer horse"), which ultimately led to its destruction by its owner.  Before trial, defendant demurred to plaintiff's petition on the ground that the action was barred under R.C. s 2305.11, the act being 'malpractice' and therefore required to be brought within one year after the termination of treatment.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court's decision overruling the demurrer to plaintiff's petition was correct, 'the petitioner is based on negligence for the transporting rather than malpractice.'  Further, the Court held that until the Supreme Court speaks, veterinarians are not included in the definition of malpractice (reversed and remanded - See , 293 N.E.2d 891 (Ohio, Mun.,1972).

Southall v. Gabel 293 N.E.2d 891 (Ohio, Mun.,1972)

This action was brought by plaintiff as owner of a 3 year old thoroughbred race horse, named Pribal, against defendant, a veterinarian, charging defendant so mishandled the horse that it sustained physical injuries and emotional trauma; that the emotional stability of the horse worsened until finally it was exterminated. The court held that the evidence failed to show any proximate cause between the surgery that was performed on the horse and the subsequent care and transport of the horse by the veterinarian. 

As the court stated, what caused Pribal to become mean and a "killer" is speculative; the O.S.U. Veterinary Clinic records in evidence did not indicate any causal relationship between the handling of Pribal by the defendant and the subsequent personality change resulting in Pribal becoming a "killer horse."

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.

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.
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.
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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Willoughby v. Board of Veterinary Examiners 483 P.2d 498 (N.M. 1971)

Donald Wayne Willoughby, D.V.M., successfully appealed the suspension of his license for 180 days at the district court level.  In an appeal by the Board of Veterinary Examiners, the Supreme Court found the Board's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence based on an examination of the entire record. The Court stated that the trial judge substituted his own judgment in reversing the decision of the Board, rather than basing his reversal upon any of the grounds set forth in the statute. While the Court affirmed the order of revocation, it held that there no language within the Uniform Licensing Act that gives the Board the power to place the appellee on probation after the period for which his license has been suspended.

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.

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).

Turner v. Benhart 527 SO.2d 717 (Ala. 1988).

Plaintiff horse owner appealed a judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court (Alabama) entered on a jury verdict in favor of defendant veterinarian in a malpractice action arising from the death of the owner's horse. The horse owner contended that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a new trial based on the ground that the verdict was against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. The court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the veterinarian in the malpractice action.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

Safford Animal Hospital v. Blain 580 P.2d 757 (Ariz.App.,1978)

Appellant animal hospital sought review of the judgment entered against it for the injuries suffered by an individual after a cow escaped from the hospital and struck the man who owned the house to which the cow had run as the man tried to help the veterinarian secure the animal.  The court held that appellant's liability is predicated upon its position as an owner or occupier of land whose duty with regard to the keeping of domestic animals is circumscribed under a bailment theory. Further the court held that the evidence supported the trial court's finding that appellant negligent under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. 

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.

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.

Rule v. Fort Dodge Animal Health, Inc. 604 F.Supp.2d 288 (D.Mass.,2009)

The plaintiff brought this action against Defendants Fort Dodge Animal Health, Inc. and Wyeth Corporation, seeking economic damages suffered from the purchase and injection of her dog with ProHeart® 6 to prevent heartworm. The complaint alleged products liability/failure to warn, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and violation of state deceptive business practices, among others. In 2004, defendants recalled ProHeart® 6 in response to a request by FDA due to reported adverse reactions. This Court found that Massachusetts law follows the traditional “economic loss rule,” where such losses are not recoverable in in tort and strict liability actions where there has been no personal injury or property damage. Here, the plaintiff was barred from recovering because she has not alleged any personal injury or property damage under her products liability claim. Further, plaintiff failed to show that defendants' deceptive act caused some injury and compsensable loss. Defendants' motion to dismiss was granted.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.  

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