A Texas appeals court reinstated a couple’s lawsuit against animal shelter that accidentally euthanized their 8-year-old dog, ruling that they can sue to recover the sentimental value of their pet.
Randy Turner, the attorney for plaintiffs Jeremy and Katherine Medlen, said this would be the first time in Texas that someone could sue for a pet’s sentimental value.
“No matter how attached they were to their pet, and no matter how devastated they were by its death … they (had been) only entitled to the `market value’ of the animal,” Turner said.
A lower court judge had dismissed the Medlens’ lawsuit over the death of their Labrador mixed breed, Avery, saying they could only sue for the market value of the pet, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
But the Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth ruled this month that the couple can sue, saying sentimental damages can be recovered for the loss or destruction of all types of personal property, including pets. The lawsuit did not specify the amount of damages it was seeking.
“Dogs are unconditionally devoted to their owners. Today, we interpret timeworn supreme court law in light of subsequent supreme court law to acknowledge that the special value of `man’s best friend’ should be protected,” the court ruled in its 11-page opinion.
Avery escaped in June 2009 from his family’s back yard in Fort Worth and was picked up by the city’s animal control. The Medlens found him at the shelter the next day, but through a series of slip-ups and errors, Avery was added to the euthanasia list and put to sleep.
Jason Lamers, a spokesman for Fort Worth, which runs the Chuck Silcox Animal Care and Control Center, said the city disagrees with the ruling.
“What happened in (this) case was beyond unfortunate, but we remain focused on preventing this from happening again and saving as many pets as possible regardless of any court-imposed value,” he said.
Paul Boudloche, an attorney for a former shelter worker the Melens are suing, said he doesn’t know if his client will appeal the ruling.
If there is no appeal, the case would likely go back to trial court where a judge could consider the lawsuit on its merits or consider a request to dismiss it on the grounds that the worker had governmental immunity.