Monday, January 24, 2011
AALS Poster Project: Sabrina DeFabritiis' Barking Up The Wrong Tree: Companion Animals, Emotional Damages And The Judiciary's Failure To Keep Pace
Professor DeFabritiis is a professor at the Suffolk University Law School, where she teaches Legal Practice Skills. He publications include:
-Clarity, Organization: Watchwords for Client Correspondence, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly (2009);
-Can You Hear Me Now? Using Voice Comments to Provide Feedback on Students' Memoranda, 2 The Second Draft 7 (2009); and
-PRODUCTS LIABILITY DEFENSE: A STATE-BY-STATE COMPENDIUM (Defense Research Institute, 2004) (Co-author of the Massachusetts section for the 2004 and 2007 editions).
Professor DeFabritiis gives the following description of the poster:
The poster is based on an article that I am in the process of completing. Below please find a brief synopsis of my article and what I hope to present.
An increasing number of American households regard their companion animals as being as much a part of their family as their human family members. Companion animals have not always held this status. Instead the role of companion animals has evolved from property, whose function was to derive economic benefit, to family members, who share a unique emotional bond with their human companions. This article argues that case law has failed to keep pace with this societal change. Despite judicial recognition that companion animals have become family member, decisions continue to provide inconsistent precedent of the non-economic damages available to the human companion upon the death of a companion animal.
The article discusses the evolution of companion animals from workers to family members. It then discusses the inconsistent course judicial opinions have taken on the recovery of emotional damages upon the negligent or intentional death of a companion animal. The article describes, how for a time, the award of damages resulting from the death of a companion animal appeared to be consistent with the rising familial status of companion animals. However, as the societal role of companion animals continued to evolve, inexplicably, the judiciary stopped keeping pace. Judicial opinions began to deny the recovery of emotional damages ruling that there existed no precedent for the recovery of emotional damages for loss of property. More recent decisions indicate that the judiciary would like for the legislature to step in and provide an avenue by which to grant non-economic damages.
The article concludes by discussing existing state statutes that allow for the recovery of emotional damages for the death of a companion animal. The article makes recommendations based on the existing statues on how other states should proceed in enacting legislation. The article suggests that codification by state legislatures will remedy inconsistent judicial precedent and allow human companions to recover for their emotional suffering upon the loss of their four legged family members.