A back-and-forth battle to determine whether people can sue for the sentimental value of their pets will get a definitive decision in the Texas Supreme Court in 2013.

The court listened to oral arguments on Jan. 10 and is expected to announce a verdict within the next nine months, according to Mason County Daily News.

Veterinarians in the state will be watching intently, as the decision could have significant financial and legal implications for their practices.

At issue is a 120-year-old Texas Supreme Court ruling declaring that people are only allowed to sue for their pet’s market value. The ruling was overturned by the 2nd Court of Appeals in Fort Worth in 2011 as a result of a couple’s lawsuit against an animal shelter employee alleging that their dog was mistakenly euthanized.

The 2nd Court of Appeals decision stated that: "Because of the special position pets hold in their family, we see no reason why existing law should not be interpreted to allow recovery in the loss of a pet at least to the same extent as any other personal property."

Now, the animal shelter employee is appealing the ruling from the lower court.

If the animal shelter employee's appeal is unsuccessful, it could put Texas veterinarians in the precarious position of being devoted to providing high-quality care to patients and clients, while at the same time being exposed to potentially heavy financial penalties in the event of malpractice lawsuits.

In 2012, John Cayce, an attorney for the animal shelter employee, told Star-Telegram.com he was concerned that the current ruling from the 2nd Court of Appeals allows for pet owners to sue for unlimited emotional damages, which could expose veterinarians to high malpractice insurance premiums and big jury verdicts.

"They have proved that the emotional sentimental value of a pet could be as high as the national debt," Cayce told the media.

Additionally, Cayce speculated that veterinarians’ increased insurance costs could translate to higher service costs for their clients.

Comments (2) -

Ken Siegel AIA
Ken Siegel AIAUnited States
1/17/2013 5:50:08 AM #

The Vet shall provide a form in which the client declares the pet's emotional value. If the value is over a threshold approved by vet's insurance co., then vet may decline service to animal...based on chance that animal will perish, or conversely, offer client option to purchase additional insurance to cover an unintended loss.

Sandy Moose
Sandy MooseUnited States
2/4/2013 2:08:27 PM #

Hyperbole, when John Cayce, an attorney for the animal shelter employee, told Star-Telegram.com "...they have proved that the emotional sentimental value of a pet could be as high as the national debt."  Mr. Cayce, keep the conversation real.  By the way Mr. Cayce, how many pets do you have?  When you take Fido to the Vet's office do you feel just a small bit of pride when Fido Cayce is called in to see the Vet?  What about the expensive foods offered at the Veterinary office.  Of course you are going to love Fido Cayce enough to spend your money.  Plus, what about the insurance for your pet--you are a good father, right Mr. Cayce.  At Fido's demise, will you choose to take him home and throw him in an incinerator;  will you choose the bargain basement cremation; or will you select the cremation with a paw print and a beautiful box?  

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