Friday, April 25, 2014

Appeals Court Affirms Award of Veterinary Expenses for Injured Dog, but Extends Prohibition of Emotional Distress Damages.

The appeals court affirmed a lower court award of veterinary expenses to owners trying to save their small dog after an unprovoked attack by an unleashed German shepherd.  The Bichon Frisé had severe internal injuries and external wounds requiring emergency surgery to the tune of $8,000. In addition to vet costs, the court also awarded the replacement value of the dog. Because Massachusetts law considers dog personal property, the owner of the German shepherd argued that damages should be capped at the market value of the dog, regardless of the reasonableness of the veterinary costs necessary to treat the dog's injuries. See Irwin v. DegtiarovThe appeals court found that reasonable veterinary costs can be recovered even if they exceed the market value or replacement cost of an animal injured by a dog. Whether particular veterinary costs are reasonable, and whether it is reasonable to incur them, will depend on the facts of each case.  Among the factors to be considered are the type of animal involved, the severity of its injuries, the purchase and/or replacement price of the animal, its age and special traits or skills, its income-earning potential, whether it was maintained as part of the owner's household, the likelihood of success of the medical procedures employed, and whether the medical procedures involved are typical and customary to treat the injuries at issue. Once again, the appeals court affirmed that although the owner's affection for the animal may be considered in assessing the reasonableness of the decision to treat the animal, the owner cannot recover for his or her own emotional distress. Nor is the owner entitled to recover for the loss of the animal's companionship. An earlier appeals court case stated that emotional distress damages were not available because in that case the owner did not witness the damage. See Krasnecky v. Meffen.  Despite not being a question in this present case, the court suggests even if an owner witnesses the attack, he or she cannot get emotional distress damages.  The Supreme Judicial Court has yet to take up this question, but this ruling seems to close the door on the possibility of emotional distress damages.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

LGBT News - Qualified Retirement Plans Post Windsor

The IRS has release long awaited guidance to administrators to qualified retirement plans. See Notice 2014-19 .  All qualified retirement plans  in states where same sex marriage is recognized is must recognize that marriage for retirement plan purposes no later than June 26, 2014, the date of the Windsor decision.  As of September 16, 2013, all plans must recognize valid same-sex marriages regardless of whether the participant’s state of domicile recognizes the marriage. The September 16 date is when the IRS released a ruling stating that spouse, husband, wife, and marriage for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code have to be interpreted to include same sex marriages.  See  Rev. Rul. 2013-17.  Given the Obama administration's unwillingness to extend itself on same sex marriage during his first term, the pace of change in the second term is breath taking. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Big Win for Non Human Animals

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced today that in an emergency the police can enter private property to protect the lives of non-human animals. The case is Commonwealth v. Duncan , SJC-11373 (April 11, 2014).  The case involves a Lynn woman who let two of her dogs freeze to death outside and fought an animal cruelty conviction by claiming the police had no right to enter her property to rescue the third, still breathing, dog.  The court found that the emergency aid exception to the requirement of a search warrant permits the police in certain circumstances "to enter a home without a warrant when they have an objectively reasonable basis to believe that there may be [an animal] inside who is injured or in imminent danger of physical harm." It moderated that finding with the statement that "the reasonableness of the search must be determined on a case-by-case basis upon consideration of the totality of the circumstances". Massachusetts joins other states in recognizing "a public interest in the preservation of life in general and in the prevention of cruelty to animals in society values animals". Congratulations to Essex Assistant District Attorney Paul C. Wagoner who did an excellent job arguing this case before the court.

Glickman Turley LLP represents animal welfare nonprofits and others interested in animal welfare.