Say somebody ill-treated my animal which I kept as a pet. It got severely injured. To survive, it had to stay at the veterinary for 2 weeks. The bill was 20x times higher than the market price of the animal.

If I then attempted to claim damages, would my claim be rebuffed on the basis that I should have "mitigated" the costs by just killing the animal and buying a new one?

  • I presume you are really looking for specific case law and not just a yes/no opinion.
    – user6726
    Sep 15 '18 at 15:48
  • 2
    @user6726 I was hoping there were some established principles that can be applied here. If none exist then yes, I'll have to dig through case law.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 15 '18 at 21:16

Things, especially but not only living things, have value beyond the price at which they can be bought and sold - always assuming they can be bought and sold. The value of a specific pet cat is not the cost of a generic kitten.

The purpose of damages is to restore you, as far as money can, to the position you were in before the wrong-doers actions occurred. Your duty to mitigate is to do all that is reasonable to minimize the costs - that may mean that you have a duty to choose treatment plan A over treatment plan B if A is cheaper than B and the prognosis is similar - it does not mean you have to choose euthanasia.

The defendant is free to argue that you acted unreasonably but given that vet bills typically run to 20x or more the price of a new animal, I don't think they would be successful.

Of course, if the animal were an economic asset, like a farm animal, rather than a pet, then a purely economic outlet may be reasonable.

  • What if the defendant could not reasonably foresee that the animal was a pet? Say it was a duck that was a very dear pet to the owner, but was thought as poultry/economic asset by the defendant?
    – Greendrake
    Sep 21 '18 at 8:52
  • @Greendrake why would that matter? It is what it is even if the defendant doesn't know what it is.
    – Dale M
    Sep 24 '18 at 4:24
  • I thought it matters because of reasonable foreseeability. There are heaps of cases where defendants were held liable only for what one could expect from their wrongdoing, not for what it actually caused.
    – Greendrake
    Sep 24 '18 at 4:30
  • @Greendrake reasonable foreseeability doesn't extend to the quantum of damages but to the foreseeability of the harm.
    – Dale M
    Sep 24 '18 at 4:41
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    If you break my vase then it must have been reasonably foreseeable that your actions could break my vase. If my vase is a stylish modern vase you owe me say $100 - if its an original Ming vase you owe me several million dollars - you don't have to foresee that it was a Ming vase.
    – Dale M
    Sep 24 '18 at 5:36

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