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Pet Food Lawsuits: What Are the Damages?

Back in December, we posted about the question of the law providing for compensation for loss of companionship and emotional distress associated with loss of a pet. Now, with the initiation of class action lawsuits against pet food companies for sale of tainted food, courts may once again revisit the matter of compensation for loss of companionship.

At the Milwaukee Injury Board, David Lowe takes a crack at describing the types of damages that may be available to pet owners. As Lowe says, the answer is complicated, because damages are determined by, and differ significantly, depending upon state law. Lowe writes:

The answer is complicated by the question of which jurisdiction's law will be chosen to determine the owners' remedy.  The manufacturer is based in Ontario, Canada, the batch of food originated from its plant in New Jersey, and the victims are dispersed around the country.  In Wisconsin, the Supreme Court held in a 2001 case (Rabideau v. City of Racine 243 Wis.2d 486, 627 N.W.2d 795) that public policy precluded a pet owner's claim for emotional damages based upon the tort of negligent infliction of emotional distress in connection with a negligent destruction of a companion dog. Absent an intent to inflict emotional harm on the owner, there is no remedy for the owner's emotional injury. Unfortunately, the sole remedy is for "property damage", probably measured by the market value of a new animal of the same breed.  Apparently, Tennessee has passed a statute allowing recovery of up to $4,000 for loss of companionship of a pet due to negligence.

Lowe notes that a class action related to harm to pets is a case of first impression and concludes by recommending that "this may be the appropriate time to test the old assumptions and make some new law in this area."

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 23, 2007 at 04:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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