eNotes: Liability – August 2023 – Virginia
August 01, 2023
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
Virginia Case Summary
Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners, LLC v. Anderson
Virginia Court of Appeals
Decided: July 11, 2023
Reasonable veterinary expenses may be recovered as damages for injuries to pets, even if they exceed the fair market value of the pet.
Plaintiff Anderson filed suit against Blue Pearl Veterinary for breach of contract, breach of bailment and negligence, claiming that it fractured two of her dog’s legs during a CT scan. She sought damages of $6,782 for necessary treatment and evaluations and between $108,855 and $119,055 per year for the rest of the dog’s life for “adequate and necessary rehabilitative care.” Blue Pearl appealed after the Trial Court denied its Motion in limine to exclude evidence or suggestion of veterinary expenses above $350, the amount Ms. Anderson paid for her dog. Blue Pearl argued that the Trial Court erred in denying its Motion in limine because dogs are personal property and veterinary expenses to treat the dog’s injuries were repair costs. Blue Pearl argued that Ms. Anderson cannot recover for repair costs which exceed the diminution in market value of the damaged personal property.
While it was well established in Virginia law that individuals cannot recover for emotional distress caused by negligently inflicted injury to a dog, the Virginia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals had not considered whether recoverable damages for an injury to a dog include vet expenses that exceed the diminution in the dog’s fair market value.
The Virginia Supreme Court held that when damaged property has no ascertainable market value or when its market value would be an inadequate measure, some other measure of damages must be applied. The Court of Appeals upheld the Trial Court’s decision to deny the Motion in limine to exclude veterinary expenses that exceeded the price Ms. Anderson paid for the dog because applying the strict market value rule was too mechanical and irreconcilable with the Court’s ultimate aim of making good an injury done by another. Therefore, Ms. Anderson may recover all veterinary expenses she can prove were or will be reasonably and necessarily incurred due to Blue Pearl’s negligence.
Questions about this case can be directed to Mackenzie Payne at (571) 470-1906 or email@example.com.