In N.J., someone who suffers the horrible experience of watching a loved one die or be seriously injured can sue for any resulting emotional distress. Unfortunately, the same right does not extend to the family pet. In McDougall v. Lamm, the N.J. Supreme Court held that that it’s 1980 ruling in Portee v. Jaffee, 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. The Court noted that, although humans may share an emotional bond with our non-human family members, permitting a recovery for emotional distress would vastly expand the types of relationships that would qualify for such damages or elevate relationships with animals above those shared with other human beings.
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