Animal as people as the people see them.

edited October 2009 in Religion & Philosophy
This was in today's [i:ehjaao68]Sarasota Herald~Tribune.[/i:ehjaao68]
What do you think? I just don't know.


[quote:ehjaao68]Pets aren't 'children' in court's eyes

By Todd Ruger


Published: Sunday, October 4, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.


Like many dog owners, Ila Abis views her dogs as "her children."

When her two German shepherds got sick after getting heartworm shots from a veterinarian, one so badly she had to euthanize it, she could not speak for a week.

But her real shock came when she wanted to sue the vet and discovered Florida law values dogs in a much different way: not as a cherished family member, but as simple property, like a table or book.

While some Florida laws give pets more legal standing -- such as allowing them to be primary beneficiaries of trust accounts or providing criminal penalties for abusing them -- the state does not let owners seek emotional damages if they think a veterinarian's error leaves their pet injured or dead.

"This is wrong on so many levels," said Abis, who found an attorney who shares her feelings on the law and filed a veterinary malpractice lawsuit.

Abis wants to change that law. A judge threw out her lawsuit in 2005. But Abis' case got new life last month when an appeals court ruled she could once again pursue some of her claims against the vet.

She has little chance of success.

Florida law sees no difference between a vet committing malpractice on an animal purchased for $50 and someone breaking a $50 chair, said Abis' attorney, Barry Silver of Boca Raton.

"The love and attention and the bond between the human and that companion animal means zero," Silver said. "If you were to go and try to get compensation, you might be looking for $50, $100 or no dollars if you picked it up off the street."

At the same time, a lawsuit can take thousands of dollars to litigate. Silver says he will file these types of vet malpractice lawsuits until the law changes.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that a pet owner can collect damages if the animal is injured in a malicious act, such as when a garbage man killed a dog by throwing a trash can on top of it, and then laughed.

In another case a veterinarian left a dog on top of a heating pad until it died.

Both those cases involved maliciousness and resulted in legal damages.

The facts in Abis' case are less severe. She says vet Ronni Tudin of Bee Ridge Animal Clinic gave her pets a shot of ProHeart 6 without telling her about all the dangerous side effects.

For Abis, the worst part is that Tudin got a letter three months before her dogs got the shot that warned of the shot's dangers.

Tudin says he treated the dogs appropriately, and even helped test to see if the shots caused the health problems and pushed the manufacturer to settle with Abis, his attorney David Shapiro said.

The manufacturer denied the shots caused the problems, but paid Abis $8,363 as a "customer service" gesture for a replacement dog. Abis says she took the money because she needed a service dog to serve as protection in her work as a process server.

But her lawsuit seeks damages above the cost of her dog.

Vets depend on the emotional attachment for income, but if something goes wrong they can claim the pet is only property, said David Favre, a professor at Michigan State University College of Law and Editor-in-Chief of the site http://www.animallaw.info.

"It's the ultimate contradiction for veterinarians," Favre said.

Only a handful of states allow for emotional damages in veterinary malpractice claims, Favre said.

A ruling in a Wisconsin case is known as the best public policy discussion. While the justices there thought owners should have some recourse, allowing dog owners to sue for emotional damages would open the door too far, the court found.

If vet malpractice were allowed, anybody with any relation to an animal could seek any amount of money, the ruling said. Ultimately, the court decided it is up to state legislators to decide how to handle it.





This story appeared in print on page BN1 [/quote:ehjaao68]

Comments

  • They aren't people, but they're certainly more than an object. Animal cruelty is covered under law, why not Vet malpractice?
  • said:

    Animal cruelty is covered under law, why not Vet malpractice?[/quote:1goz9azi]

    Animal cruetly is a sign of ignorance or psychological abnormality. The law can educate people and punish abnormal conduct.

    Malpractice is a mistake. We all make them. The question is who should pay for our mistakes (we should) and how much should we pay (the full measure of damage we cause).

    You can accept my answers above and still not see a basis for vet liability beyond the value of the animal. Most states only permit damages for emotional distress where the act is so outrageous that a normally constituted person would be outraged. Some require that the emotional distress demand medical attention.

    Losing an animal to veterinary malpractice is not so outrageous.

    The real outrage is that a person would have such a distorted view of life that she would value a dog as much as a child. And I love dogs.

  • said:

    Losing an animal to veterinary malpractice is not so outrageous.[/quote:3mr8onwz]
    It's certainly more outrageous than, say, bringing a couch in for reupholstery and the new fabric isn't the right colour.

  • said:

    said:

    Losing an animal to veterinary malpractice is not so outrageous.[/quote:29n4ci42]
    It's certainly more outrageous than, say, bringing a couch in for reupholstery and the new fabric isn't the right colour.[/quote:29n4ci42]

    Depends on your emotional attachment to the couch, you heartless bastard.

  • said:

    Depends on your emotional attachment to the couch, you heartless bastard.[/quote:3bas5opz]
    Couches aren't alive. We offer animals some protection (re: cruelty) and AFAIK there aren't any furniture shelters... So why no vet malpractice?

  • I love my dogs, but providing healthcare for them is already extremely onerous and expensive. I can't imagine how badly costs would skyrocket if vets had to carry malpractice insurance. I think that if this woman is successful, it will lead to fewer animals getting veterinary care.
  • said:

    said:

    Depends on your emotional attachment to the couch, you heartless bastard.[/quote:icxg8rxz]
    Couches aren't alive. We offer animals some protection (re: cruelty) and AFAIK there aren't any furniture shelters... So why no vet malpractice?[/quote:icxg8rxz]

    There is recovery for veterinary malpractice, but it is limited to the value of the animal he "ruined". You don't generally get to recover for your feelings.

  • Are emotional damages the same as punitive damages?

    I love animals but allowing to sue for emotional damages due to vet malpractice seems like a really bad idea. Defensive medicine is already screwing up healthcare for people, I'd hate to think of what would happen vets had to cover their asses as well.

    If an animal doesn't die from the alleged malpractice would its emotional well-being be analyzed and admitted to the preceedings?
  • said:

    Are emotional damages the same as punitive damages?[/quote:36ofu73w]

    The short and correct answer is "no".

    The longer answer is that the reality is that a jury is likely to view an award of full compensation for emotional harm (full compensation>more than money spent on it and would include compensation for suffering), as in some way a punishment, and therefore punitive.

    Compensatory damages compensate for something lost. Punitive damages teach a person not to do the thing for which he is "punished" with an award.

    If that seems a very artificial distinction to you, I won't argue the point.

  • Understood thanks.

    Not that you know all things about this sort of law but do most malpractice laws allow for both emotional and punitive damages?
  • said:

    Understood thanks.

    Not that you know all things about this sort of law but do most malpractice laws allow for both emotional and punitive damages?[/quote:1lke4nnz]

    I will try to be succinct and direct.

    Malpractice occurs where a professional doesn't exercise the sort of care normal for his profession. This failure is a matter of negligence, not intent or malice. When someone hurts you because he was negligent, you are entitled to damages for the result of his negligence. In theory, this compensates you for each injury to you, including financial injuries and suffering. "Pain and suffering" is not the same as a claim for "emotional distress". It sucks to have a broken leg (pain and suffering). It is scary to have someone break your leg to scare you into paying a debt, then develope agoraphobia as a result (emotional distress).

    Either injury may be compensated for with a money judgment.

    To make matters more complex, "emotional distress" must be inflicted intentionally in many states in order to be recoverable, but the money you get for having been injured is still a compensatory award.

    Why is that more complex? Because intentional acts are those for which punitive damages may also be awarded. Those awards serve to dissuade people from engaging in outrageous behavior like leg breaking for unpaid debts, or in the case of T, telling the girl in the hole in your basement floor that she "puts on the lotion, or it gets the hose".

    Did that clarify or confuse?

  • It helped thanks.

    To make my question more clear, I was wondering if general malpractice law allows for all forms of compensation. My question comes from my understanding of Worker's Comp that has many limitations (realizing the two issues are very different).
  • said:

    It helped thanks.

    To make my question more clear, I was wondering if general malpractice law allows for all forms of compensation. My question comes from my understanding of Worker's Comp that has many limitations (realizing the two issues are very different).[/quote:3so734zo]

    Ah. In most states, workers comp stands substantially outside the normal court system in which malpractice claims live.

    If a doc decided that during your appendectomy, he would amputate your limbs to teach you not to look at his sister that way, the award could have the following components.

    1. the cost of resulting medical bills, lost oncome, pain and suffering, loss of services, and cost of ongoing care.

    2. the horror and emotional scarring you had from waking with no limbs.

    3. an amount to punish the surgeon for the amputations.

    1 and 2 are compensatory. 3 is punitive.

  • Perfect, thanks :D

    Axe, would you like to make all of these remedies available to our furry friends?
  • said:

    Perfect, thanks :D

    Axe, would you like to make all of these remedies available to our furry friends?[/quote:3f35ulgp]
    No, but the other (current) extreme, where a vet bears essentially no responsibility at all, isn't any better.

  • This seems like a reasonable area for insurance to prosper. People who value their dog more than the replacement cost for that breed should be able to pay an insurance company appropriate premiums for whatever they would want to be paid in the event of vet malpractice. Vet pays replacement cost. Insurance company pays whatever the customer wanted. Customer pays premiums.
  • said:

    This seems like a reasonable area for insurance to prosper. People who value their dog more than the replacement cost for that breed should be able to pay an insurance company appropriate premiums for whatever they would want to be paid in the event of vet malpractice. Vet pays replacement cost. Insurance company pays whatever the customer wanted. Customer pays premiums.[/quote:3bah7mq3]
    That does nothing whatsoever to keep Vets to a minimum standard of competence and/or awareness. You're essentially blaming the owner for the vet killing the animal.

  • axe - I wouldn't underestimate the ethical standards most vets hold themselves to. It might not be official and government mandated, but it is something that most of them take into account.
  • said:

    said:

    This seems like a reasonable area for insurance to prosper. People who value their dog more than the replacement cost for that breed should be able to pay an insurance company appropriate premiums for whatever they would want to be paid in the event of vet malpractice. Vet pays replacement cost. Insurance company pays whatever the customer wanted. Customer pays premiums.[/quote:3u8xoei0]
    That does nothing whatsoever to keep Vets to a minimum standard of competence and/or awareness. You're essentially blaming the owner for the vet killing the animal.[/quote:3u8xoei0]

    ?...

    ?

    Should I blame my wife for being the beneficiary of my life insurance?

  • said:

    Should I blame my wife for being the beneficiary of my life insurance?[/quote:11dhirf3]
    If an inept doctor kills your wife, would you just collect life insurance and be on your merry way, leaving the doc to kill others?

  • Axe, your assertion was that having a pet owner take insurance on the value of his pet beyond the simple economic value effectively blames the owner for the vet's act. That doesn't make sense.
    said:

    said:

    Should I blame my wife for being the beneficiary of my life insurance?[/quote:vqin0gl9]
    If an inept doctor kills your wife, would you just collect life insurance and be on your merry way, leaving the doc to kill others?[/quote:vqin0gl9]

    No, but that might be one of the differences between a wife and a pet or a girlfriend.

  • said:

    Axe, your assertion was that having a pet owner take insurance on the value of his pet beyond the simple economic value effectively blames the owner for the vet's act. That doesn't make sense.
    [/quote:24jjrnuv]
    No, my objection (as it has been since my first post in this thread) is that Vets have little if any obligation to actually be competent -- if they "accidentally" kill a pet, they get off with a simple "OOPS MY BAD LOL" and reimburse the purchase price of the animal.

    said:

    No, but that might be one of the differences between [b:24jjrnuv]a wife[/b:24jjrnuv] and [b:24jjrnuv]a pet or a girlfriend[/b:24jjrnuv].[/quote:24jjrnuv]
    :lol:

  • Seems like a great recipe for insurance fraud.
  • said:

    Seems like a great recipe for insurance fraud.[/quote:3ewzzb0r]

    Countered by the vet's concern for his reputation and the insurance company's profit motive. Any failure to keep fraud in check would quickly result in adjustments by the actuaries, so that the premiums would become appropriately expensive.

    People value their own pets above their market value, which is part of what Axe seems concerned about. Insurance offers a way for pet owners to recover some of the loss that they alone perceive. Forcing the rest of society to value some crazy people's pets as much as crazy people do, is.. crazy.

    Is it really so stunning that a private insurance contract offers a solution to this "problem"?

  • I don't see a need for a means of compensation for the owner, what I'd like it for vets to be kept to some standard of adequacy.
  • said:


    Is it really so stunning that a private insurance contract offers a solution to this "problem"?[/quote:vro6h2vd]
    I'm in agreement with your approach, if there is a demand for life insurance for pets I'm happy to see someone try and fill it. My comment was just a random thought centered on the idea that because animals don't have the same rights as humans their deaths will not receive the same investigation. This reality makes life insurance for animals a tricky proposition.

    We looked into getting medical insurance for our dog once but quickly learned the cost for insuring an animal is likely far greater than the out of pocket expenses the animal will accrue during his life.

    Axe, vets must be licensed and certified, is this not enough? Or do you really mean you would like vets to have some form of accountability? Is the danger of losing their license to practice sufficient?

  • I should have been clearer, in as much as only my first paragraph was really responsive to your post, the remainder of my post was more directed at Axe's concern. I was being quote lazy.
  • [quote:2mtz7kfi]"The love and attention and the bond between the human and that companion animal means zero," Silver said.[/quote:2mtz7kfi]
    Interesting. Reminds me of this:
    said:

    The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. [b:2mtz7kfi]It was like a daughter to him.[/b:2mtz7kfi]

    "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

    David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." [/quote:2mtz7kfi]

    said:

    Depends on your emotional attachment to the couch, you heartless bastard.[/quote:2mtz7kfi]
    LOL

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