In the presence of the Lakeland Nutrition Feed Recall, one can only wonder how the aggrieved could possibly be compensated for the losses suffered. In most states, horses, like all animals, are known as chattel. Chattel, under the law, meaning property. In other words, horses are treated the same as your car. Certainly anyone who has ever owned and loved a horse knows they could never be treated as property but rather a member of your family.
Florida courts have mixed emotions when addressing whether a pet owner would be entitled to the recovery of pain and suffering for the ongoing losses and ultimate loss of their equine.
In Knowles Animal Hospital v. Helen Wills, 360 So.2d 37 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1978) the Third District upheld the recovery for the element of pain and suffering when considering a dog owner’s grief for the severe burn and disfigurement inflicted on their dog by their vet. The court noted the jury was permitted to consider the element of mental pain and suffering of the dog owners. The court went on to note that on the evidence the jury could, and no doubt did, view the neglectful conduct which resulted in the burn injury suffered by the dog to have been a character amounting to great indifference to the property of the plaintiffs, such as to justify the jury award.
But along came Kennedy v. Byas, 867 So.2d 1195 (Fla. 1st DCA 2004) who vehemently disagreed with the holding of the Knowles case citing that while a dog may be part of the family, under Florida law, animals are considered to be personal property. Citing Bennett v. Bennett, 655 So.2d 109, 110 (Fla. 1st DCA 1995). Despite rejecting Knowles, the First District recognized there were times when pain and suffering should be an element of consideration, thus distinguishing LaPorte v. Assoc. Indeps, Inc., 163 So.2d 267, 269 (Fla. 1964). In LaPorte, the Florida Supreme Court opined the maliciousness of throwing a garbage can at the plaintiff’s pet certainly opened the door for recovery of pain and suffering.
As an equine attorney, I have had much success in state court retaining the element of pain and suffering for the right cases. The argument sits well with most judges. There can be no question that a feed company who manufacturers feed for cattle and horses in the same location, and possibly in the same machinery, must have stringent policies and protocols in place to ensure that cross-contamination cannot occur. In the case of Monensin inclusion, cattle and poultry, can consume 10 times more than the lethal limit a horse can consume. There can be no room for error or mistake. Sadly, the effects do not appear for 12-24 hours thus horses eat with no understanding that they are being poisoned and there is no sign for noting the feed is contaminated. It is not equivalent to recognizing moldy hay.
Feed in Florida can cost as high as $30.00 per bag and horses are no longer purchased for $500.00. Given the financial gain of these feed companies who supply Florida farms to feed expensive show horses, such a mistake must come with significant penalty to the manufacturer. That should include the mental pain and suffering being experienced every day by these children and their families, as they watch their partners deteriorate before their eyes.
Bonnie Navin is an attorney with the Firm of Kelley Uustal, PLC. The firm, which believes in justice for all, has a long and distinguished track record of results in the practice areas of automobile accidents, catastrophic injury, wrongful death, dangerous products, automobile defects, medical malpractice, fraud & financial misconduct, business litigation and employee protection. The firm is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with offices located at Courthouse Law Plaza, 700 S.E. 3rd Avenue, Floor 3 and can be contacted at (954) 522-6601. Additional information about Kelley/Uustal may be obtained from the firm’s website at www.justiceforall.com.