Showing posts with label compensation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label compensation. Show all posts

Tuesday 23 May 2023

New York City woman is suing her veterinarian for $3 million for 'murdering' her cat. Discuss.

This is a highly unusual story. It is extremely rare (unique?) to succeed when suing your veterinarian for "murder". What she means, I suspect, is that she is suing her veterinarian for malpractice. For being negligent. Making a mistake. She wants $3 million in compensation. That's an awful lot and she won't get it. And I also believe that she will not win the case and I'll tell you why.

Misia. Photo: Alina. It looks like she was a former TNR stray cat.

Misia was a 15-year-old tuxedo cat that her owner, Alina Kedzierska, rescued. They had a great relationship. But in June 2020 Misia, was found on the floor next to her bed in a "strange position". She couldn't move and Alina rushed her to the local animal hospital which is the Animal Medical Center (AMC) on E. 67th St.

Her cat was seen by a veterinarian who had been at the clinic since 2019. Her name is Lauren Saunders. She is a senior veterinarian there. She diagnosed a feline stroke and said that Misia had to be euthanised. Alina reluctantly agreed.

She must have discussed the matter with another veterinarian afterwards who said that it is possible to treat a feline stroke with medication: anticoagulant therapy. In which case she would have been alive today Alina claims.

The hospital made another mistake (or was it?) when they cremated Misia without Alina's consent as I understand it. She wanted an autopsy done but it didn't happen. They also lost Misia's body for a while and ignored Alina's request for a necropsy (autopsy).

So, there are two weaknesses as I see it with this claim. Firstly, it does seem pretty clear that the veterinarian did make a mistake but that's going to be challenged. The question is, was this the kind of mistake that a reasonable veterinarian could make? Veterinarians are not robots. They make mistakes. Courts have to factor that into their decisions. If a veterinarian makes a reasonable mistake, you can't successfully sue them for compensation.

The question is would a reasonably competent veterinarian have made the same decision under the same circumstances? If the answer is yes then there is no negligence.

There has to be quite a lot of leeway in a negligence claim against medical professional because you can't expect them to be perfect. And Misia was 15 years old. It may be the case that she wouldn't have been greatly benefited by medication and treatment for a stroke.

I'm not deliberately painting a negative picture but a realistic one. Another issue is that a domestic cat is not worth $3 million even when you factor in the emotional loss. I have said in the past that under the circumstances if a claim is successful, the owner should receive a minimum sum in compensation to take into account emotional distress which is fixed under statute i.e. federal or local law. That sum could be $10,000. It would reflect the loss of a family member as important to the owner as a child or relative.

Owners of cats and dogs poisoned to death by commercially prepared foods should receive an automatic $10,000 payment in compensation.

But at the moment courts rarely include compensation for emotional distress. So, she has a mountain to climb to win the case and to win that kind of compensation which, in truth, won't actually happen.

There is perhaps one last point to make. When you are with a veterinarian and they say that in their opinion your cat has to be euthanised because of XYZ, it might be useful to take a deep breath and tell them that you are going to seek a second opinion. 

Agreeing to euthanasia is going to be a final decision which cannot be reversed. I think under the pressure of being with a veterinarian and your cat being seriously ill, you need to take a backward step and give yourself a little bit of time to reflect on what is going on in order to come to the right decision.

I am grateful to the New York Post for the story.

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