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Veterinary Malpractice


Tuesday, October 13, 1998

Featured guest of Marc Morrone and Bobby Rivers.
Featured guest of Marc Morrone and Bobby Rivers.

October 13, 1998 Metro Pets

Segment Topics

1. Rights and obligations of pet owners for injuries caused to or by their animals.

The Common Law “One Free Bite Rule” or vicious propensity of the pet (including inherently dangerous breed) and particular circumstances under local case law governs liability where animals cause injury.

Pet owners could also be held criminally liable for attacks under certain circumstances where the animal is deemed a “dangerous instrument”. Conversely, any serious injuries, abandonment or neglect caused to animals can invoke civil and/or criminal liability of owners or others.

2. Rights and obligations of consumer(s) and dealer(s) for sale of dog(s) and cat(s).

New York’s “Pet Lemon Law” under General Business Law Article 35-D affords options for refund, exchange or retaining animal and recovering expenses where dog or cat is certified by veterinarian as unfit by illness, congenitally malformed or having symptoms of contagious or infectious disease IF written notice given to “pet dealer” within fourteen (14) business days.

Other warranties and remedies are provided the buyer under the Uniform Commercial Code (Article 2 Sale of Goods), which in New York has a four year statute of limitations. Animals are covered “goods” under the law that implies and imposes various warranties and contract terms.

Anthony Ballato with Martha Stuart and guests.
Anthony Ballato with Martha Stuart and guests.

3. Dealing with Veterinarians and professional malpractice.

The professional should procure the “informed consent” of the patient/owner before rendering any treatments; and owes the lay person a full explanation of the procedure, options, costs, risks and probable outcome before administering any drugs or treatments. Otherwise, an informed choice cannot be made and liability may be imposed upon the professional.

The consumer should be aware that a short statute of limitations (three years in New York) applies to any claims of negligence against veterinarians (not to be confused with even shorter period of two years and six months involving medical, dental or pediatric malpractice); but that a longer limitations period (six years in New York) applies to claims against the consumer for breach of contract or non-payment. Thus the consumer could be held liable for payment to the veterinarian even after the malpractice claim is time-barred. This inherent unfairness to the consumer is worsened by the emotional aspects and concerns for the pet, high costs and lack of insurance.

The consumer/pet owner should obtain full information and perhaps be aided in major decisions by a friend orĀ  relative brought to all visits at the animal hospital

Disclaimer: The rights and liabilities of persons varies greatly under the particular facts of each case and are governed by different laws and statutes of limitations in each jurisdiction. Any one concerned about potential claims or liabilities should promptly consult with local counsel and not rely upon the general topics and hypotheticals discussed herein.