Law School Case Brief
Ammon v. Welty - 113 S.W.3d 185 (Ky. Ct. App. 2002)
An action for loss of consortium remains dependent on the familial relationship. The loss of love and affection resulting from the loss or destruction of personal property is not compensable.
In 1992, plaintiffs Richard J. Ammon and Waneta L. Ammon moved to Trimble County, Kentucky, where they lived with their three minor children on a 63-acre farm. Shortly before Christmas of that year they adopted Hair Bear, a stray dog. Hair Bear was never licensed and apparently roamed the area without restraint. One day, their neighbor, Georgia Nuss, picked up Hair Bear and delivered him to the residence of the Trimble County Dog Warden, Robert Brewer. Hair Bear was wearing a collar, but nothing to identify him with his owner. Before expiration of the seven-day waiting period imposed by Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 258.215, Brewer shot and killed Hair Bear. Brewer testified that he routinely destroyed impounded dogs by shooting them in the head. The Ammons filed a lawsuit against Brewer in Kentucky state court alleging claims of wrongful destruction of the Ammons' dog and outrageous conduct causing severe emotional distress after Brewer shot and killed their dog. They also sought damages for loss of consortium, as well as punitive damages. The circuit court dismissed the action. The Ammons appealed.
Were the Ammons entitled to damages?
The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court noted that since the dog had no market value, the Ammons sought to be allowed to prove the dog's value as a beloved pet under a theory of loss of consortium. However, loss of consortium was limited to the loss of a family member, and the dog, as property, did not qualify. Second, the outrageous conduct claim failed because there was no evidence that Brewer intended to inflict emotional harm on the Ammons. Since there was no viable claim for actual damages, the punitive damages claim also failed. Finally, the appellate court denied the Ammons' request to declare that a gunshot to the head violated KRS § 258.215, which stated that dogs were to be destroyed in a humane manner, noting that the legislature knew of the practice but had not prohibited it.
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