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New Jersey Supreme Court Holds No Bystander Emotional Distress Claims For Pet Owners - McDougall v. Lamm, A-99-10

Per The New Jersey Law Journal:

"New Jersey's highest court has refused to recognize an emotional-distress cause of action for witnessing the grisly death of a pet, no matter how dear to the owner.

"'Although we recognize that many people form close bonds with their pets, we conclude that those bonds do not rise to the level of close familial relationship or intimate, marital-type bond,' the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday in McDougall v. Lamm, A-99-10.

"The unanimous court refused to expand to pets the doctrine of Portee v. Jaffee, 84 N.J. 88 (1980), which allows a suit for emotional distress by one who witnesses the death of a family member."


Directly from the syllabus of  McDougall v. Lamm, A-99-10:

"HELD: There is no basis in law or public policy to expand the traditionally and intentionally narrow grounds established in Portee v. Jaffee, 84 N.J. 88 (1980), which permits compensation for the traumatic loss of carefully defined classes of individuals, to include emotional distress claims arising from observing a pet’s death. Although humans may share an emotional and enduring bond with pets, permitting that bond to support a recovery for emotional distress would require the Court to vastly expand the classes of human relationships that would qualify for Portee damages or to elevate relationships with animals above those shared with other human beings."

More after the jump...