Veterinarian Issues: Related Cases

Case name Citationsort descending Summary
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.

Shera v. N.C. State University Veterinary Teaching Hosp. 723 S.E.2d 352 (N.C. Ct. App. 2012)

After an animal hospital caused the death of a dog due to an improperly placed feeding tube, the dog owners sued for veterinary malpractice under the Tort Claims Act. The Court of Appeals held that the replacement value of the dog was the appropriate measure of damages, and not the intrinsic value. Owners’ emotional bond with the dog was not compensable under North Carolina law.

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.
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.

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. 

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.
Zimmerman v. Robertson 854 P.2d 338 (Mont. 1993)

Defendant-veterinarian was contracted to castrate plaintiff’s horse. Post-surgical care resulted in a fatal infection of the horse.  The court found that, indeed, expert testimony is required in malpractice cases, as negligence cannot be inferred from the existence of a loss.  The court disagreed with plaintiff that defendant’s own "admissions" in his testimony at trial provided sufficient evidence of deviation from the standard of care to withstand a directed verdict by defendant.  As to plaintiff’s argument regarding a lack of informed consent, the court noted that a medical malpractice claim premised on a theory of lack of informed consent is a separate cause of action rather than an "element" in an otherwise specifically alleged claim of professional negligence.

Zimmerman v. Robertson 854 P.2d 338 (Mont. 1993)

Plaintiff horse owner sought review of a judgment by the District Court of Yellowstone County, Thirteenth Judicial District (Montana), which entered a directed verdict in favor of defendant veterinarian on the owner's claims of professional negligence. On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that the owner was required to prove the veterinarian's negligence by expert testimony, and that he failed to do so.  In addition, the court The court found that the "defendant's admissions" exception to the expert testimony requirement did not apply because the veterinarian did not admit that he deviated from the standard of care.

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..

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.

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.

Zeid v. Pearce 953 S.W.2d 368 (Tex.App.-El Paso, 1997)

Richard and Susan Zeid appeal from the trial court's order dismissing their lawsuit against Dr. William Pearce, d/b/a Coronado Animal Clinic, for veterinary malpractice after the dog suffered from allergic reactions resulting from alleged negligent vaccinations.  The court observed that, in Texas, the recovery for the death of a dog is the dog's market value, if any, or some special or pecuniary value to the owner that may be ascertained by reference to the dog's usefulness or services.  Consequently, the court found this longstanding Texas rule to be inconsistent with the Zeids' claim for pain and suffering and mental anguish.  Because the Zeids did not plead for damages for the loss of their dog that are recoverable in Texas, the trial court did not err in sustaining Dr. Pearce's special exception and dismissing their cause of action.

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.'

Quesada v. Compassion First Pet Hosps No. A-1226-19, 2021 WL 1235136 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Apr. 1, 2021) In this unpublished case, plaintiff’s cat “Amor” was euthanized after being diagnosed with heart failure disease and saddle thrombus. At the hospital, plaintiff was visibly affected by the death of his cat, who he was allowed to say goodbye to. Plaintiff also talked and sang to Amor’s body until the body was retrieved. Plaintiff was informed that during the procedure Amor had bitten one of the nurses and that state law required a brain tissue sample to rule out rabies. Plaintiff informed the veterinarian of his wish to display Amor's body for viewing prior to cremation in two different instances. Neither the procedure or alternative procedures were explained to the plaintiff. At the body’s viewing, the plaintiff discovered that his cat had been decapitated. Plaintiff became extremely emotional after discovering his cat’s head had been disposed of as medical waste. As a result of the decapitation, plaintiff developed several severe mental health issues. Plaintiff filed a claim alleging negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and bailment. The case was dismissed for Plaintiff’s failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff appealed the decision alleging that the lower court had mistakenly applied the standard of the bystander negligent infliction of emotional distress, instead of a direct liability claim and error in dismissing his remaining negligence and bailment claims. The court agreed with the plaintiff and reversed the dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. On the count of negligent infliction of emotional distress, the court held that plaintiff’s claim did not fall under the "bystander" liability as his severe emotional distress arose after the passing of his cat and upon seeing his cat's decapitated body. Additionally, the court stated that plaintiff’s “emotional reaction combined with the fact that defendant was twice on notice that plaintiff intended to have a viewing of his cat's body prior to cremation established that defendants owed plaintiff a duty.” Defendants breached this duty by being on notice of plaintiff emotional distress and failing to properly inform plaintiff of the typical procedure of decapitating the cat for rabies testing, inform him of alternative testing procedures, and failing to request that the cat's head be returned after decapitation and prior to the showing. Suffering of plaintiff’s illnesses was still to be determined. The court found that the plaintiff “had pleaded a direct claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” A claim of bailment had also been appropriately pleaded since plaintiff had given defendants control of his cat's body and defendant returned it in a damaged condition.
Rehn v. Fischley No. C0-95-813, 1995 Minn. App. LEXIS 1539 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995).

The doctor was a veterinarian and a member of the board of directors for the humane society. The director of the humane society asked her for advice on how to clean cat cages, and the doctor gave advice and donated a bottle of formalin, whereupon the employee who used the formalin suffered permanent lung damage. The employee commenced an action against the doctor and humane society for damages.  The court held that although the doctor would not have advised using formalin if she was not a member of the board, this fact did not establish that giving the advice was within the scope of her responsibilities as a board member.

Sexton v. Brown Not Reported in P.3d, 147 Wash.App. 1005, 2008 WL 4616705 (Wash.App. Div. 1)

In this Washington case, Valeri Sexton and Corey Recla sued Kenny Brown, DVM, for damages arising from the death of their dog. Plaintiffs alleged a number of causes of action including negligence, breach of bailment, conversion, and trespass to chattels. The incident occurred after plaintiff's dog ran away while plaintiff was camping Marblemount area. Another party found the Yorkshire terrier and took it to defendant-veterinarian's office, the Pet Emergency Center (PEC). After being examined first by a one veterinarian, defendant-veterinarian Brown took over care and determined that the dog suffered from a life threatening condition; he then told the finders that if they did not want to pay for further care, they could have the dog euthanized. This court affirmed the trial court's decision that the medical malpractice act does not apply to veterinarians. It also affirmed the dismissal of Sexton's breach of bailment claim, finding that Brown was not a finder under relevant Washington law. The court did find that there were material issues of fact about the measure of damages, and reversed the decision to limit damages to the fair market or replacement value of the dog. Further, the court found genuine issues of material fact about whether Brown's actions were justified when viewed under the requirements of Washington's veterinary practice laws.

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.
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.

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).

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.

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