A Washington State dog owner, this month, was awarded $100,000 by a jury for the shooting death of his beloved pet.
The owner filed a civil lawsuit against a neighbor and his family in the death of Chucky, a 7-year-old English springer spaniel.
The defendants previously rejected at $21,400 arbitration award. When the case went to trial, the jury awarded the dog owner $36,475 in damages for the “intrinsic value” of the spaniel, and the “emotional distress” suffered by his bereft owner. It is believed to be the largest jury verdict in Washington State for the death of a dog. The jury was unanimous on all counts, including fraud committed by the defendant after Chucky's death.
In Spring 2014, the defendant and his three sons were shooting clay pigeons across property belonging to Chucky's owner. Chucky, a trained hunting dog, heard the gunfire and started chasing the clay pigeons. Chucky was shot in mid-afternoon and “spent the night with his intestines torn open” while his frantic owner searched for him, according to testimony. In the morning the owner found him and took him to a veterinarian where Chucky died.
When Chucky's owner called the neighbors who had been shooting clay pigeons, they falsely suggested someone had hit his dog with a car.
The attorney who represented Chucky's owner had previously represented another Washington State family whose beloved Newfoundland, Rosie, was Tasered repeatedly then shot and killed with an assault rifle by police officers. In that case, the dog owner was awarded $51,000.
In civil law, intentional infliction of emotional distress has several elements:
- The defendant must act intentionally or recklessly.
- The defendant's conduct must be extreme and outrageous.
- The conduct must be the cause of severe emotional distress.
Unlike a physical injury where there may be evidence in the form of medical records, X-rays or even scars or disfigurement, emotional distress is psychological and can be more difficult to prove. And not all unpleasant behavior rises to a level that inflicts emotional distress. To support a claim of emotional distress, the conduct of the offending party must be extreme and outrageous, exceeding all possible bounds of decency.
The definition of emotional distress is vague and plaintiffs must prove to a jury they are experiencing such intense distress that it justifies a monetary award. In some cases, where the distress is accompanied by a physical injury or a history of post-traumatic stress that can be documented by a physician or psychologists, this evidence combined with the plaintiff's own testimony can be sufficient to support the award of damages in such a claim.
Emotional distress can manifest as physical symptoms, including:
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Weight fluctuations.
- Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches, a rumbling stomach, diarrhea, constipation, and chronic pain -- especially backaches.
- Mood swings.
- Obsessive compulsive behaviors.
- Chronic lack of energy.
“Studies have shown that chronic pain might not only be caused by physical injury, but also by stress and emotional issues. In particular, people who have experienced trauma and suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are often at a higher risk to develop chronic pain,” according to Psychology Today.
If you feel you have suffered a trauma through negligence, disregard or a deliberate act that rises to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress, you need an experienced personal injury attorney who can provide you with legal support. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.