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Et Tu New Jersey? Are Dogs People or Property?

January 5, 2012

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Yesterday we talked about the New York lawsuit seeking emotional damages for a dog.  Today we're going to talk about a New Jersey lawsuit that wants to expand the number of situations in which a person can recover emotional distress damages.
In New Jersey, under the <em>Portee v. Jaffee</em> rule, a plaintiff can recover for emotional distress when he or she witnesses the traumatic death of a close family member.  In the case of <em>McDougall v. Lamm</em>, New Jersey's Supreme Court is being <a href=";et=editorial&amp;bu=New%20Jersey%20Law%20Journal&amp;cn=NJLJ%20Daily%20News%20Alert%3A%20January%205%2C%202012&amp;src=EMC-Email&amp;pt=New%20Jersey%20Law%20Journal%20Daily%20News%20Alert&amp;kw=OWNER%20WHO%20SAW%20HER%20DOG%20KILLED%20BY%20ANOTHER%20SEEKS%20PORTEE-TYPE%20DAMAGES">asked to decide</a> whether witnessing the death of a beloved dog also allows recovery of emotional damages.  In <em>McDougall</em>, the plaintiff witnessed her dog being killed by the defendant's dog.  She commenced a lawsuit and the trial court held that the "plaintiff's damages are limited to the replacement cost of the dog."  This ruling was upheld by the Appellate Division on the grounds that dogs are property, not people.  The instant appeal resulted and arguments occurred this past Tuesday.  The decision will be issued in 2012.
For my own part, I grew up with dogs.  I like dogs.  But dogs are not people.  And don't even get me started on certain WCM staff members who dress their dogs up for the holidays in reindeer costumes...
For more information about this post, or which particular WCM staff members dress their dogs up in costumes, please contact Bob Cosgrove at


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