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North Carolina court rules in wrongful death case for dog

The North Carolina Court of Appeals has upheld the ruling of the North Carolina Industrial Commission, denying the plaintiffs of a lawsuit from collecting additional compensation. The plaintiffs filed the wrongful death lawsuit after their Jack Russell terrier was killed while undergoing a tube feeding in 2009. The suit names North Carolina State University's College of Veterinary Medicine as the defendant.

Because the dog was killed at a state-funded facility, the family's compensation claim was processed by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which awarded the couple $2,755 to pay for veterinary bills and an additional $350, the estimated cost of a new Jack Russell terrier. The dog's owners say they were insulted by the award. "She brought so much joy to our lives. She was a part of our family. You cannot replace [her]," said one of the plaintiffs.

In response to the offer, the couple sued the hospital where their dog died, requesting over $28,000 in damages in compensation for emotional distress, "the intrinsic value of the unique human-animal bond," cremation costs, lodging, travel and veterinary bills. However, an appeals court rejected this claim, upholding the ruling established by the NC Industrial Commission. A spokesperson for North Carolina State University thanked the court for its attention and extended the school's sympathies to the deceased pet's owners.

The plaintiffs argued that the original award was unfair, given the amount of time and money they had invested in their dog, but an appeals court judge wrote responded that "North Carolina law has not yet recognized a lost investment valuation method in wrongful death cases, whether human child or pet animal. He continued, explaining that state law has no precedent allowing courts to determine the value of a life based "total investment over a lifetime."

Source: Claims Journal, "North Carolina Appeals Court Rules in Legal Fight Over Dead Dog," Michael Biesecker, Feb. 23, 2012

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