New Jersey Supreme Court Denies Pet Owner's Request For Money For Emotional Distress Loss

The New Jersey Supreme Court has recently held that there is no cause of action for emotional distress for a pet owner.

Joyce McDougall was walking her dog when a large dog attacked her pet and shook it several times before dropping it, causing the death of Joyce’s dog.

She sued the owner of the attacking dog for the value of her pet and also alleged that, as a result of witnessing the dog’s death, she suffered significant emotional distress for which she demanded money damages.

Her request for money for the emotional damages was denied by the trial court and the Appellate Court affirmed that decision.

 She appealed and the State Supreme Court ruled, in: Joyce McDougall v. Charlot Lamm

“There is no basis in law or public policy to expand the traditionally and intentionally narrow grounds established in Portee v. Jaffee, 84 N.J. 88 (1980), which permits compensation for the traumatic loss of carefully defined classes of individuals, to include emotional distress claims arising from observing a pet’s death. Although humans may share an emotional and enduring bond with pets, permitting that bond to support a recovery for emotional distress would require the Court to vastly expand the classes of human relationships that would qualify for Portee damages or to elevate relationships with animals above those shared with other human beings.”

The Clerk of the Court has outlined the findings of the Court here.

It seems to be a well-reasoned opinion, whether you agree with it or not…





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