After a long history of not allowing damages for loss of the companionship of a pet, a Texas court, in Medlen v. Strickland, 353 S.W.3d 576 (Tex.App.—Fort Worth 2011), has finally decided that dogs do in fact have a sentimental value that supports the awarding of damages.
Since the Texas Supreme Court’s decision in Heiligmann v. Rose, which was decided in 1891, Texas courts have routinely held that damages for the loss of a dog are limited to the animal’s market value or a special value based on its usefulness or services. Under this precedent a pet owner could not recover damages for loss of companionship of the pet.
While the Texas Supreme Court had not dealt with the value of a lost pet in the last 120 years ago, it had dealt with the sentimental value of other personal property and it has repeatedly held that damages can be awarded based on the intrinsic, sentimental value of personal property, such as photographs and family keepsakes, even though these items have no ready market value.
Based on the line of cases awarding damages for the sentimental value of personal property, and because dogs are personal property, the Medlen court determined that existing law could be interpreted to allow recovery of damages for the loss of a pet. Now, the door is open to pet owners recovering for the loss of the companionship of a pet.
Please e-mail Lindsey Rigg with questions or comments.