Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 258
151st General Assembly (2021 - 2022)
The General Assembly has ended, the current status is the final status.
AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 10 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO CIVIL ACTIONS FOR TORTIOUS INJURIES, INCLUDING DEATH, TO LAWFULLY OWNED PETS.
This Act abrogates current Delaware law as it presently stands regarding available recovery for damages related to injured or deceased pets that are tortiously injured by a third party or a third party’s animal. Under current Delaware law, including cases such as Naples v. Miller, 2009 WL 1163504, (Del. Super. Ct. Apr. 30, 2009), there are substantial limitations on a pet owner’s ability to recover amounts related to the cost of veterinary bills because animals that are pets in Delaware are treated as property. This Act does not change the status of pets as property but does provide new causes of action to address tortious injury to a pet. Under current law, an owner would only be permitted to recover the fair market value of a pet, regardless of the amount of veterinary bills or expenses related to care stemming from a tortious injury that is inflicted. This Act provides that limitations on such actions apply as they would otherwise apply to actions under Delaware’s common law as it relates to negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, wanton behavior, or intentionally tortious behavior where punitive damages could presently be awarded. This Act would permit an action to be brought by a legal entity that owns an animal that suffers tortious injury, although any limitations presently existing that would apply to a legal entity bringing such a claim would apply. Finally, this Act limits the ability to bring a cause of action under this Act to persons who are lawfully in possession of their pet, pursuant to relevant state, county, or municipal limitations, thus barring actions involving unlawfully possessed animals. This substitute act differs from the original through removal of the cap on recoverable veterinary bills incurred due to a tortious injury inflicted upon a pet. This act also differs from the original through removal of the ability to recover damages related to emotional trauma suffered by a pet owner in the face of negligent, reckless, wanton, or intentional tortious injury. The other sources of relief outlined in the original act remain unaltered. This Act shall be referred to as the Izzy the Cat Act, in honor of a cat that was severely injured due to the tortious acts of a third party. Izzy’s injuries were found to be compensable during an insurance arbitration, but were limited to the “fair market value” of Izzy, which does not capture either the expense of caring for significant injuries to a pet or the emotional impact to the pet’s owner. Izzy’s story is like so many other pets who suffer tortious injury with little recourse for the humans that care for them to be truly made whole. This Act will correct these imbalances in Delaware’s laws, and serve as a deterrent to the sort of behavior that leads to the injury or death of the pets of Delaware’s residents and visitors