Scheele v. Dustin

188 Vt. 36, 998 A.2d 697 (2010)

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Scheele v. Dustin

Vermont Supreme Court
188 Vt. 36, 998 A.2d 697 (2010)

Facts

Sarah and Denis Scheele (plaintiffs) owned a family dog named Shadow. The Scheeles were traveling through Northfield, Vermont, when they stopped in a parking lot. The Scheeles unleased Shadow, and the dog wandered onto an adjacent property. At that time, the owner of the property, Lewis Dustin (defendant), was waiting with a pellet gun to shoot squirrels. Instead, Dustin saw Shadow on his property and shot and killed the dog. The Scheeles were nearby and observed the shooting and Shadow’s death. The Scheeles thereafter experienced severe emotional distress in the form of recurring nightmares, inability to sleep, sadness, and physical stress due to Shadow’s killing. The Scheeles brought an intentional-tort action and a claim for loss of companionship against Dustin. In the complaint, the Scheeles requested economic damages for Shadow’s adoption fees, vet bills, and cremation costs. Additionally, the Scheeles sought noneconomic damages for mental distress, emotional pain, and destruction of a special relationship, as well as punitive damages. At a bench trial, the court awarded full economic damages but concluded that Vermont law does not provide for noneconomic damages in claims for deaths of pets and that a loss-of-companionship claim did not apply to pets. The Scheeles appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Skoglund, J.)

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