Festering Lawsuit: Driver Runs Over Dog and Then Sues Owners

In Duluth, Minnesota, the Munthe family thought that it was bad enough that their miniature pinscher, Fester, was hit by Jeffrey Ely’s Honda Civic. That was before he served them with papers for the damage to his car, court costs, and even lost wages. The family has now countersued for the value of Fester (replacement costs) and their own costs. OF course, Ely got of light, as the video below shows, another guy in California last week found a pit bull stuck in his truck engine, chewing his wiring.

On January 4th, Fester slipped past Nikki Munthe and ran into the road where he met with his demise on the grill of Ely’s Civic. Ely insists that the 13-pound dog forced parts of the bumper into the radiator which had to be replaced. The result was $1,100 in damages plus lost time at work and court fees.

I checked at the value of 1997 civic and found most going for around $5000 or less. That it, without a miniature pinscher embedded in the engine.

Ely is still more fortunate than the man in this video who found a pit bull in his truck engine. He is out more than a $1000 with no one claiming the dog.

Back in Minnesota, the Munthes are now counter suing for $2,400 for the value of Fester (pre-accident) and their time and costs. Since they have little chance of recovery, the lawsuit is obviously designed to get Ely to withdraw.

I suppose in a case over a dog named Fester, we should not be surprised that the case is continuing and worsening with time.

For the full story, click here

7 thoughts on “Festering Lawsuit: Driver Runs Over Dog and Then Sues Owners

  1. JT:

    Are you aware of any jurisdictions that allow for non-economic damages for the loss of domestic animals? Here in Virginia we will not permit such damages, but the attorney who had such a case told me there was a contrary minority view. If so, I hope Minn. is one of them, but given the ad damnum amount it appears not.

  2. Mespo:

    Usually one has to argue negligent infliction of emotional distress to extend damages. The common law still views the value of the pet in terms of market value.


  3. Like some of the common law that defied human experience, I suspect this too will change. Some people attach as much affection to their pets as they do to their family. To disregard this truism invites attack and change. I have always thought the damages analysis should be viewed in subjective terms as it applies to the particular plaintiff involved. That is the basis for the “thin skull” rule. Courts do however tend to look at the injuries in objective terms, though paying lip service to the plaintiff’s particular circumstances when they remit awards. I think we’ll need a good fact pattern to reverse this outcome. Perhaps the loss of a “Seeing Eye” dog by a visually challenged person would sway the Court’s opinion given its obvious importance (physically and emotionally) to its owner.

  4. Mespo, this just came in the Assitance Dog newsletter:

    “Debbie has multiple sclerosis…now with her new service dog Jazzy, she no longer feels…invisible to people. Debbie said, “I don’t think able-bodied people can truly realize how precious these dogs are. Jazzy will give me back some of the independence and confidence that I’ve lost. I won’t have to rely on other people so much and I’ll avoid the types of injuries that were caused by bending or reaching for something I need. She gives me a sense of purpose that I haven’t had since I’ve had to stop working…All this from this beautiful creature that is “just a dog”.

  5. Jill:

    That’s a wonderful example of a pet being more than property. Thank you very much for the story.

  6. Animal extremists argued (amicus) in Denver’s BSL appeal Jan 2009, that animals are not property, but we all know that extremists say this because they believe animals are equal to if not higher, than humans. The believe owning or using animals is slavery. That is why they want animals classified as *not* property.

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