Posted On: August 28, 2011

High Court to Consider Whether Emotional Damages Can be Recovered in Death of a Pet

For the dog lovers among us, our pets are family. We pamper them, we love them and, when they die, we grieve them. But with dog ownership comes responsibility and there are laws to assure those responsibilities are met.

Most states, including New Jersey, hold dog owners responsible for damages caused if their dogs bite a person. The N.J.S.A. 4:19-16 statute addresses no other injury except dog bites and holds true even if the dog is in the possession of someone other than its owner – a dog walker, for example – when the attack occurs. There are exceptions to this law including instances when the victim is on the dog owner’s property illegally. (1)

What happens, though, when one dog attacks and kills another? That’s a question the New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to consider. (2)

The case involves Joyce McDougall who, in July 2007, witnessed a fatal attack on her dog, Angel, a Maltese and poodle mix, while visiting the state from her hometown in Virginia. Ms. McDougall was walking Angel when another larger dog came out of a nearby house and attacked her dog. Ms. McDougall watched as Angel was mauled, shaken and left dead on the sidewalk. (3)

A Morristown Superior Court Judge awarded Ms. McDougall $5,000 in economic damages, but ruled she was not entitled to recover any emotional damages even though she had witnessed the vicious attack. That decision was later upheld by a New Jersey Appellate Court. (3)

The law considers dogs, and other pets, property -- not family and, as such, owners are not entitled to recover emotional damages upon their loss. The law currently only allows for the recovery of emotional damages under certain circumstances when a person witnesses the tragic death of a human family member – not an animal. (2)

While a date for the Supreme Court’s hearing of this case has not yet been announced, the Court’s decision could bring changes to animal law as we now know it.

(1) http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusnjst4_19_16.htm
(2) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/08/nj_supreme_court_to_consider_l.html
(3) http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110816/NJNEWS/308160020/State-Supreme-Court-hear-Morris-Plains-case-decide-owner-killed-dog-can-claim-emotional-distress


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Posted On: August 13, 2011

Department of Justice and State Reach Agreement over Alleged Discriminatory Promotion Tests

New Jersey will soon have to design a new test for screening candidates for municipal and county police sergeant positions according to a settlement reached between the U.S. Justice Department and the State. (1)

In January 2010, the Justice Department filed suit in U.S. District Court in Newark alleging that the civil service test used by the State’s local and county police departments discriminated against African American and Hispanic applicants. The test, according to the Justice Department, did not help to find the best candidates for the position, but rather disqualified an unequal number of blacks and Hispanics. (2)

The current test has been used since 2000. (3) During the period from 2000 and 2008, the Justice Department claimed, 89% of Caucasian candidates passed the test, which was administered by about 120 county and municipal law enforcement departments, compared with 77% of Hispanic and 73% of African American candidates. (2)

Under terms of the settlement, New Jersey would cease using the current test, design a new one and put aside $1 million to be used as back pay for those candidates the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division deems were negatively affected by the current test. In addition, those candidates would be given preferential consideration for future sergeant position openings. (1)

This settlement is subject to approval by a federal judge. (3)

(1) http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/08/nj_must_create_new_sergeant_se.html
(2) http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/new-jersey-police-sergeant-promotion-test-declared-discrimatory-against-blacks-hispanics
(3) http://www.newser.com/article/d9orj6g02/nj-justice-department-reach-settlement-in-case-alleging-discriminatory-police-promotion-tests.html

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