Georgia Supreme Court rules pet owners can recover veterinary costs in negligence cases

June 22, 2016

Judge: Couple eligible to seek $67,000 in dachshund's treatment costs after kennel administered wrong medication.

On June 6, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a pet owner-in this case, a couple who spent $67,000 on a dachshund's veterinary treatment-may seek to recover treatment costs in negligence cases even if those expenses exceed the pet's fair market value.

“We find that long-standing Georgia precedent provides that the damages recoverable by the owners of an animal negligently killed by another include both the fair market value at the time of the loss plus interest and, in addition, any medical and other expenses reasonably incurred in treating the animal,” wrote Chief Justice Hugh Thompson in the court's unanimous opinion.

At issue in the case is the death of Lola, a dachshund owned by Robert and Elizabeth Monyak. The Monyaks boarded Lola and her housemate, Callie, a 13-year-old Labrador, at Barking Hound Village, where, they assert in their original lawsuit, the staff gave the dachshund the anti-inflammatory medication meant for the Labrador. This resulted in renal failure and, despite extensive veterinary care over a nine-month period, Lola's eventual death.

 The Georgia Court of Appeals found that, in the absence of an actual “market value,” the measure of recoverable damages was the pet's actual value to the owner, which the Supreme Court reversed. But the court also found the defendant's claim that damages had to be capped at fair market value also to be incorrect.

Referring to a decision from the 1800s involving an injured horse, Thompson states that precedent allows that “when the animal fails to recover, damages are limited to the market value of the animal .... plus the reasonable costs expended on its care and treatment.”

So what do “reasonable costs” entail, exactly? That's for a jury to decide, Thompson says. He also notes that, despite the number of amicus briefs filed, damages based on sentimental value were never an issue in this case.