Texas: “Dog Owners Can Recover Sentimental-Value Damages for Loss of Pet”

A veterinarian-dreaded development: “Fort Worth’s 2nd Court of Appeals has ruled that value can be attached to the love of a dog, overruling a 120-year-old case in which the Texas Supreme Court held that plaintiffs can only recover for the market value of their pets.” [Texas Lawyer, earlier]


  • If the new unlimited liability doctrine extends to veterinary malpractice, the result for pets and their owners who use veterinary services would be devastating. Vets would be forced to buy malpractice insurance, practice defensive medicine, and inflate bills to pay for it.
    I suppose trial lawyers would suggest that companion animals be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, but I doubt if we would go there.

  • Since pets are still property even with this decision, could vets just make their customers sign contracts stipulating the value of the pet in the case of an adverse outcome, say $200? They could include an arbitration clause as well. I know this does not work for medical care, but veternarian services are purely commercial. And if the pet owner had a major problem, i guess the vet could even have a non-waiver fee that is 20 time higher or something.

  • @jkoerner: I like that in general, but the $200 is way too low. Take a look at the price of purebred animals these days, not show animals, just purebred. $200 doesn’t come close.

    You’d need to have a mechanism to define ‘fair market value’ for the time and place, modified perhaps by the age of the animal.

  • My dogs are worth billions to me…. Please, oh please, don’t do anything to harm them.


  • God help the family that takes the class gerbil over Christmas break. Would it be the school system, the class members in a class action, or the teacher who would sue?

    Me- I plan on investing heavily in elderly Dachshunds in need of heavy vet care, and who can’t see or move well enough to cross the road safely.

    And yes, the dogs get a “who” not a “which” because this comment will be evidence of my deep personal relationship with the dogs in my future lawsuits…..

  • Legislatures should have addressed this long ago by assigning a nominal value for pets that otherwise would have no market value. $200 suggested in one of the above posts is within reason. It should also be limited to dogs and cats–animals that have been bred for human companionship.

  • […] fortunately, a recent post by Walter Olson at Overlawyered.com gives me a chance to circle back around to one story that I […]

  • ” It should also be limited to dogs and cats–animals that have been bred for human companionship.”

    Not horses, cockatiels or floppy eared rabbits? Guinea pigs? Just what the heck are Guninea pigs bred for anyway.

    $200? great! I’ve never paid more than $20 for a cat in my life. Cha-ching!

    I think I have loved all my pets. I am saddened when they pass; sure, I’ve cried over them. I remember them fondly years even decades later. When they have died, eventually I’ve gone out and bought another one which I love with what seems to me to be same quantum of feeling.

    IOW, my view is that one can buy the identical feeling of love and devotion in a bestial “family member” for another $20-30 spay/neuter fee.

  • And when was it that a Texas District Court of Appeals got to overrule a Texas Supreme Court (or Court of Criminal Appeals) decision, even if it’s old?

  • […] just a better dog lover than lawyer Posted on November 20, 2011 Overlawyered put up a post last week discussing Medlen v. Strickland, a Texas case allowing pet owners to recover more than […]