Texas Supreme Court Decision Could Change Longstanding Dog Bite Law

Last updated on: March 19, 2013

Texas Supreme Court Decision Could Change Longstanding Dog Bite Law

For many, there are few possessions we value above our pets.  In fact, for most people, it might be more accurate to describe our pets as more like members of our family than mere possessions.

It surprises many, then, to learn that Texas law does not allow a pet owner to recover for the sentimental value they place in their pet or for the loss of companionship they feel when their pet is wrongfully taken from them. Examples of wrongful conduct that deprives you of your pet could be when another person’s dog attacks and kills your own dog, or when your dog dies through the neglect of a kennel. Instead, Texas law allows a person to only recover the “fair market value” of the animal at the time it is killed. That low limit on the amount one can recover seldom justifies a lawsuit.

All of that may soon change, however. Earlier this year, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Strickland v. Medlen, a case out of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. In that case, the Medlens are suing an animal shelter that put their dog down by mistake, after promising to hold the animal for Mr. Medlen’s return. In a move that surprised much of the legal community, the Second Circuit overturned over 100 years of precedent and upheld the Medlens’ award for the sentimental value of the dog. That decision prompted the Texas Supreme Court to agree to hear the case.

It will probably be several months before the Texas Supreme Court issues its decision, and, no matter which side the Court rules for, it is certain to generate a lot of discussion among lawyers who deal with cases involving personal injuries and animal attacks. In the meantime, if you have questions about your rights following an animal attack, give one of the Personal Injury Associates at Zinda Law Group a call.