Friday, July 24, 2015

POOR DOGGY: Judge Zulick Reviews Issues in Veterinary Malpractice Case

In his recent decision in the case of Purpura v. Bartin Heights Veterinary Hospital, _____ (C.P. Monroe April 30, 2015 Zulick, J), Judge Arthur Zulick of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas addressed several issues raised by way of Preliminary Objections against a Plaintiff’s veterinary malpractice action.  

The case involved alleged  malpractice in the treatment of the Plaintiff’s dog.   The Plaintiff alleged that the veterinarian incorrectly diagnosed the dog’s condition and subjected the dog to surgeries that caused further harm.  

The court granted the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections to the Plaintiff’s demand for punitive damages.   Judge Zulick noted that the Plaintiff’s Complaint, which alleged negligence and negligence supervision in training, contained no allegations that the Defendants’ actions were intentional, reckless, or malicious.  As such, the court sustained this objection.  

In addition to addressing other issues, the court also sustained the Defendants’ objections to the Plaintiff’s claims relative to the dog’s alleged severe physical pain as a result of the alleged malpractice.   In so ruling, Judge Zulick noted that, under Pennsylvania law, dogs were considered personal property.  

Judge Arthur Zulick
Monroe County
Judge Zulick also noted that Pennsylvania case law held that, under no circumstances, could there be any recovery for a loss of companionship due to an animal’s death.  

The court also noted that claims for pain and suffering of an animal were not recognized under Pennsylvania law.

Accordingly, the court struck the claims relative to the dog’s alleged severe pain.  

Judge Zulick also sustained Defendants’ objections regarding Plaintiffs’ calculation for compensatory damages.  The court found that the Complaint was not sufficiently specific enough in this regard as the Plaintiff failed to set forth the alleged fair market value of the dog at the time of injury and/or to itemize the cost of the veterinary treatment to remedy the alleged injury caused by the alleged malpractice.  

Judge Zulick noted that, under Pennsylvania law, if the cost of that treatment, including future expenses, exceeded the dog’s fair market value, the law required that the damages would be limited to the fair market value of the dog.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may contact me at

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