Shook Public Policy Group Spearheads Victory in Texas Supreme Court on Damages in Pet Injury Cases

Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s Public Policy Group contributed to a favorable outcome for animal medicine manufacturers in the Supreme Court of Texas, which ruled in Strickland v. Medlen that emotion-based damages, including loss of companionship and sentimental damages, are not permitted in pet injury claims in Texas. Presenting on behalf of amici during oral argument, Shook Partner Victor Schwartz highlighted the public policy issues at stake after a lower appellate court in Texas broke with the majority of courts nationally by allowing broad, new emotion-based damages for pet deaths in a November 2011 ruling. Shook Partner Phil Goldberg authored the amici brief on behalf of the Animal Health Institute and several animal health organizations, developed other amici and helped prepare defense counsel on key issues.

In its ruling, the court ultimately recognized that finding for additional liability for the loss of a pet could have significant downsides for pets themselves. “For example, the American Kennel Club, joined by the Cat Fanciers’ Association and other pro-animal nonprofits, worry that ‘pet litigation will become a cottage industry,’ exposing veterinarians, shelter and kennel workers, animal-rescue workers, even dog sitters, to increased liability: ‘Litigation would arise when pets are injured in car accidents, police actions, veterinary visits, shelter incidents, protection of livestock and pet-on-pet aggression, to name a few,’” states the court, citing the amici brief authored by Goldberg. “As risks and costs rise, there would be fewer free clinics for spaying and neutering, fewer shelters taking in animals, fewer services like walking and boarding, and fewer people adopting pets, leaving more animals abandoned and ultimately put down.”