THE FUTURE OF VETERINARY MALPRACTICE LIABILITY IN THE CARE OF COMPANION ANIMALS (pdf file - 416.29 KB)
The unwillingness of American civil courts to realistically compensate companion animal loss has effectively negated the only independent means of enforcing the veterinary standard of care. In doing so, it has perpetuated an industry-wide market failure by keeping veterinary malpractice insurance rates artificially lower than consumers would be willing to absorb to protect themselves. Given that U.S. pet owners annually spend over $19,000,000,000 (19 billion) on veterinary care, and make more than 200,000,000 visits to the veterinarian every year, the potential for social and economic loss is considerable. As those who seek greater recovery for intentional and negligent harm to animals are now turning increasingly to state legislatures for relief, they repeatedly are finding such efforts stymied by the arguments of the veterinary community. This comment investigates the factual bases of those arguments from the veterinary community and of those that support increasing the malpractice liability of veterinarians. Combining law and economics theory with basic mathematics to evaluate the validity of these positions, it then suggests specific measures for legislatively addressing those parties’ concerns.