An award to plaintiffs of emotional distress damages for the intentionally injury to plaintiff’s pet dog Romeo by striking it with a baseball bat was recently upheld on appeal.
The court acknowledged that had the injury been caused merely by defendant’s negligence, emotional distress damages would not be available. However, under the facts in Plotkin v. Meihaus the Court of Appeal found good cause to allow an award of emotional distress damages to stand.
The court recognized: 1) there are no other domestic animals to which the owner or his family can become more strongly attached, or the loss of which will be more keenly felt; 2) one can be held liable for punitive damages if he or she willfully or through gross negligence wrongfully injures an animal (Civil Code section 3340); 3) that intentionally maiming, mutilating, torturing, or wounding an animal constitutes a crime (Penal Code section 597(a)); and 4) cases in other states have recognized a pet owner may recover for mental suffering caused by another’s wrongful acts resulting in the pet’s injury or death.
Held: “California law allows a pet owner to recover for mental suffering caused by another’s intentional act that injures or kills his or her animal.”