ATLANTA, Ga. - The Georgia Supreme Court issued a ruling that affects anyone with a pet. If tragedy strikes and you wanted to sue for damages, the Court said a jury can now decide the monetary value of your dog, cat or any pet.
This came two years after the FOX 5 I-Team investigated the death of a dog that spent time in a popular Atlanta pet kennel, Barking Hound Village. The ruling allows a jury to decide a pet has monetary value, even one that doesn't come from a breeder.
In May, 2011, Bob and Elizabeth Monyak dropped off their two dogs at Barking Hound Village kennel for 10 days. According to the family's lawsuit, Barking Hound mixed up the medications between their dachshund mix Lola and their other dog Callie. Lola eventually died nine months later from acute kidney failure. Barking Hound denied doing anything wrong, but it turned out the kennel had earlier issued 30 different disciplinary reports to employees for making medication mistakes on dogs or cats.
"If this had been a tragic mistake and they had done what they could to help here, I think that would have been one thing," Elizabeth Monyak told us in 2014. "That isn't what happened."
When the Monyak sued for damages, Barking Hound claimed Lola had "no fair market value." The Monyaks got Lola as a rescue dog for free.
"They advertise themselves as caring for your dog," pointed out Bob Monyak. "Providing luxury, safe services for your dog. But then when push comes to shove in litigation and they're called upon to actually take a position what they actually think the value of a dog is, they say a rescue dog is abandoned property."
The Georgia Supreme Court disagreed. In a unanimous decision, the Court said the Monyaks could ask a jury to award them the fair market value of their dog using "breed, age, training, temperament, and use..." If they win at trial, they're also allowed to ask for the $67,000 in vet bills they accrued in trying to save their dog's life.
In one way, Lola was lucky. Both her owners happened to also be attorneys.
"Litigation costs money," admitted Bob Monyak. "But there's a principle involved and we think it's important."
Because the Supreme Court declined to let a jury determine a dog's "sentimental value," Barking Hound issued a statement calling the decision a victory. "We are pleased with the court's decision in our favor, and look forward to showing the lower court that BHV did not cause any harm or damage. We remain passionate and strongly committed to the quality care of all dogs."