You are a lucky dog owner, and you love your pet. But based on a recent court ruling, your pet is no more valuable than any other household item. In fact, insurance companies go as far as to say, if it costs too much to fix, just get a new one.
As a personal injury attorney in Milwaukee, Mequon and Waukesha, I find this deplorable. In my opinion, this is another area of the law that just has not kept up with the times.
Recent Case Does Not Respect Dog Owner Rights
It used to be that an animal was just property, and if someone’s carelessness damaged your property, they would have to pay damages the equivalent of buying you a different pet. I thought times had changed. This recent court case demonstrates how the law is behind the times: Was injured dog an irreplaceable keepsake? Wisconsin court says no.
In this case, American Family and Wisconsin Mutual Insurance Company took the repulsive position that a dog is only worth the fair market value, not the vet bills incurred trying to repair the animal. American Family and Wisconsin Mutual were successful in the case.
It interesting that the court of appeals issued this decision as a “PER CURIAM” decision, meaning that none of the judges wanted to sign their name to it, it was just the opinion of the court.
The Supreme Court may be asked to take this case and review the law. The Wisconsin Supreme Court only takes very few cases, of the many that ask for review. Given the current anti-consumer conservative majority of the court, I would expect them to side with the insurance companies, if they even decide to accept review.
The opinion can be read at: https://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=164930
Past Cases that Demonstrated the Value of Dogs
There were a couple of circuit court judges that recently recognized these older cases no longer fit with the times and that pets have a lot more value to their owner than just their market value. They allowed the vet bills that were incurred in treatment of a dog that were necessitated by another’s careless conduct.
In the Wisconsin cases I found, the insurance company statements often argued that dogs are like personal property: if it costs too much to fix, just get a new one.
American Family touts itself “To be the most trusted and valued customer-driven insurance company. The American Family Enterprise is a family of companies dedicated to delivering unparalleled service and exceptional protection to our customers. Its mission is to “Inspire, protect and restore dreams.” Our commitment to you is to be innovative, caring, agile, trustworthy, transparent and passionate.”
Taking the position it recently took in the case cited above really demonstrates how sincere their mission statement really is.
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