Andrew Higgins’ Story – CA

Small Claims Case No. 01WS05885 through negligence lost
and destroyed the remains of my pet dog, Tango.


Superior Court of California
West Justice Center
8141 13th Street
Westminster, CA 92683

December 04, 2001

Higgins, Andrew

Rooks, Robert L.

All-Care Animal Referral Center

Plaintiff’s Claim:

Defendant owes me the sum of $5,000.00, not including court costs, because defendant through negligence lost
and destroyed the remains of my pet dog, Tango.

Trial date: 01/14/2002

Judgment was entered on 02/14/2002.

Defendant Rooks, Robert L. & All-Care Animal Referral Center shall pay plaintiff Higgins, Andrew $500.00 plus costs of $80.00.

Judges Comments:

Higgins v. Animal Critical Care

Case submitted
The court denies the request to consolidate. It finds that the cross-complaint served on plaintiff arises from the same set of facts. There is no compulsory cross-complaint in small claims matters. The court believes that the cross-complaint is filed against the plaintiff simply for the purposes of delay and in order to allow defendants discovery which is unavailable in a small claims action.

The court finds as follows:

Defendant misplaced and lost the ashes of Rottie named Tango.

The plaintiff has proven an ownership interest in the dog. The defendant is liable to plaintiff under the following theories of liability.

Breach of contract
Negligent infliction of emotional distress

The court finds that plaintiff suffered emotional distress as a result of the negligently lost ashes of his dog. The court finds that these damages are recoverable under the law based on the following cases.

Windeler v. Scheers Jewelers (1970) 8 Cal. App. 3d 844. This case involves emotional distress recovery arising from the loss of rings with sentimental value. The court found that emotional distress was a foreseeable result of the breach of contract. Similarly, here the loss of Tango’s ashes, a dog which the owner spent thousands of dollars to keep alive, was foreseeable to the defendant.

The court also notes the numerous cases in which morticians have been held liable for emotional distress arising from mishandling of corpses. See e.g. Allen v. Jones (1980) 104 Cal. App. 3d 207.

The courts finds that the plaintiff suffered severe emotional distress over the loss of Tango and Tango’s ashes. It notes that plaintiff’s last bill in excess of $500 has been forgiven by defendants. The court believes that plaintiff’s grief is primarily due to the loss of his dog and plaintiff has not received any medical treatment for the loss.

The court awards plaintiff the amount of $500.


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