Some dog walker was walking his two dogs. One got of his leash, jumped my neighbor’s wall, attacked our kitten (about 8 months old) and killed it. We have five children and they are very upset as they have lost a very close friend.
The police have told me to take the owner to a small claims court and claim for the cost of the kitten and emotional damage to the children. I have to put an amount down on the claim form but I don’t know how much to put down. No amount of money could make the children feel better.
Any ideas on how to come up with an amount for this?
Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.
Your first consideration will be the maximum “jurisdictional amount” of the small claims courts in your state. You can sue for any amount up to the court’s maximum jurisdictional limit and no more. This is in addition to the amount of the filing fee for the lawsuit.
Most states’ small claims courts permit plaintiffs to sue for actual damages (in your case the dollar amount to replace the kitten) and the balance up to the jurisdictional limit for emotional distress, also called mental anguish or pain and suffering.
You will have to bring with you to the trial written proof of the dollar amount a pet store will charge for the type of kitten. Proof can be an advertisement for costs of kittens, or an invoice from a pet store or private breeder.
The problem you may run into, especially if the dog owner contests the lawsuit, is proving emotional distress. To prove emotional distress you will likely need a written psychological report from a licensed counselor.
In the alternative, you may have to put your children on the witness stand to testify how the death of the kitten has traumatized them. If your children are quite young, the judge may not force them to testify in the courtroom, but instead will speak to them privately in her chambers to determine the amount of emotional distress each child suffered.
These are all issues you must consider before filing your lawsuit.
In lieu of filing a lawsuit you might contact the dog owner and ask him if he will voluntarily pay for the replacement cost of a similar kitten plus an additional amount for the emotional distress suffered by your children.
Learn more here: Dog-on-Dog Aggression
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.
Best of luck with your claim,
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