SW Legal studies in Business

Pets Are Personal Property; Value Is Fair Market, But May Include Sentimental Value
Description

Appeals court held that when a pet is killed, personal property has been lost. The owner may sue a negligent party for the fair market value of the pet, but that can include the sentimental value of the pet. There may be no recovery for emotional distress.

Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words

Professional Negligence; Pet; Damages

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Kaufman bought Salty, a macaw, in 1996. The bird was much enjoyed by Kaufman. In 2005, the bird had medical problems. Dr. Langhofer did surgery on Salty and she died. Kaufman sued Langhofer for professional negligence and wrongful death. He sought damages for emotional distress, loss of companionship, and other claims. The trial court allocated 30 percent of fault to the veterinarian and 70 percent to Kaufman and awarded no damages. Kaufman appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Animals are personal property and damages for negligent injury or death for an animal are limited to the animal's fair market value. If goods have no clear market value, their actual worth to the owner is the test for determining damages. When goods have special value (sentimental value) to the owner, the owner may sue to recover that value and the jury may determine that value. However, a pet owner cannot recover damages for emotional distress and loss of companionship for a pet negligently killed or injured.

Citation Kaufman v. Langhofer, ---P.3d--- (2009 WL 4980337, Ct. App., Ariz., 2009)

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