CACI No. 3903O. Injury to Pet - Costs of Treatment (Economic Damage)

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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3903O.Injury to Pet - Costs of Treatment (Economic Damage)
[Insert number, e.g., “15.”] The harm to [name of plaintiff]’s pet [specify
kind of pet, e.g., dog].
To recover damages for injury to [name of plaintiff]’s pet,
[he/she/nonbinary pronoun] must prove the reasonable costs that [he/she/
nonbinary pronoun] incurred for the care and treatment of the pet
because of [name of defendant]’s conduct.
New June 2013
Directions for Use
Give this instruction to recover the expenses of treating a tortious injury to a pet.
Pets are no longer exclusively treated as property with regard to damages. The
general standard for damages to personal property based on market value (see CACI
No. 3903J, Damage to Personal Property (Economic Damage)), is often
inappropriate because pets generally have no value to anyone except the owner.
Therefore, recovery of reasonable medical expenses is allowed. The rule applies
regardless of the tortious cause of injury, including what may be referred to as
veterinary malpractice. (See Martinez v. Robledo (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 384 [147
Cal.Rptr.3d 921].) CACI No. 3903J may be given if diminution in value is alleged.
Emotional distress damages have been allowed for intentional injury to a pet. (See
Plotnik v. Meihaus (2012) 208 Cal.App.4th 1590, 1606−1608 [146 Cal.Rptr.3d 585]
[claim for trespass to chattels]; see also CACI No. 2101, Trespass to
Chattels - Essential Factual Elements.) CACI No. 3905A, Physical Pain, Mental
Suffering, and Emotional Distress (Noneconomic Damage), may also be given.
Sources and Authority
“There can be little doubt that most pets have minimal to no market value,
particularly elderly pets. . . . [W]hile people typically place substantial value on
their own animal companions, as evidenced by the large sums of money spent
on food, medical care, toys, boarding and grooming, etc., there is generally no
market for other people’s pets.” (Martinez, supra, 210 Cal.App.4th at p. 390,
original italics.)
“[T]he determination of a pet’s value cannot be made solely by looking to the
marketplace. If the rule were otherwise, an injured animal’s owner would bear
most or all of the costs for the medical care required to treat the injury caused
by a tortfeasor, while the tortfeasors liability for such costs would in most cases
be minimal, no matter how horrific the wrongdoers conduct or how gross the
negligence of a veterinarian or other animal professional. [¶] Moreover, allowing
a pet owner to recover the reasonable costs of the care and treatment of an
injured pet reflects the basic purpose of tort law, which is to make plaintiffs
whole, or to approximate wholeness to the greatest extent judicially possible.”
(Martinez, supra, 210 Cal.App.4th at p. 390.)
“In this case, plaintiff is not plucking a number out of the air for the sentimental
value of damaged property; he seeks to present evidence of costs incurred for
[the cat]’s care and treatment by virtue of the shooting - a ‘rational way’ of
demonstrating a measure of damages apart from the cat’s market value. That
evidence is admissible as proof of plaintiff’s compensable damages, and the trial
court erred in granting the motions to exclude it. Plaintiff is entitled to have a
jury determine whether the amounts he expended for [the cat]’s care because of
the shooting were reasonable.” (Kimes v. Grosser (2011) 195 Cal.App.4th 1556,
1561-1562 [126 Cal.Rptr.3d 581], internal citations omitted.)
“Plaintiff is not seeking loss of companionship, unique noneconomic value, or
the emotional value of the cat, but rather the costs incurred as a result of the
shooting.” (Kimes, supra, 195 Cal.App.4th at p. 1560, fn. 3.)
“We recognize the love and loyalty a dog provides creates a strong emotional
bond between an owner and his or her dog. But given California law does not
allow parents to recover for the loss of companionship of their children, we are
constrained not to allow a pet owner to recover for loss of the companionship of
a pet.” (McMahon v. Craig (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 1502, 1519-1520 [97
Cal.Rptr.3d 555].)
“We believe good cause exists to allow the recovery of damages for emotional
distress under the circumstances of this case. In the early case of Johnson v.
McConnell, supra, 80 Cal. 545, the court noted ‘while it has been said that
[dogs] have nearly always been held “to be entitled to less regard and protection
than more harmless domestic animals,” it is equally true that there are no other
domestic animals to which the owner or his family can become more strongly
attached, or the loss of which will be more keenly felt.’ (Plotnik, supra, 208
Cal.App.4th at p. 1607, internal citation omitted.)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, § 1902
Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 3-C, Specific Items Of
Compensatory Damages, 3:220 et seq. (The Rutter Group)
4 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 52, Recovery for Medical Expenses and
Economic Loss, § 52.33 (Matthew Bender)
3 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 23, Animals: Civil Liability,
§ 23.15 (Matthew Bender)
6 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 64, Damages: Tort, § 64.192 (Matthew

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