If our dog’s illness was misdiagnosed, can we sue in small claims for the return of our money and for pain and suffering caused to the dog?

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If our dog’s illness was misdiagnosed, can we sue in small claims for the return of our money and for pain and suffering caused to the dog?

My dog, who had oozing bumps on her skin, was taken to a vet who only visually inspected her and prescribed steroids to treat a skin condition. We later learned that the dog had skin cancer and that a skin test should’ve been performed. Instead, we paid $1,400 in treatments which were useless and only postponed the dog’s agony. Do we have a medical malpractice case against the vet for negligence? The treatments were useless and expensive. We had to euthanize the dog a month after the treatments.

Asked on June 26, 2015 under Malpractice Law, Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You may have a malpractice case against the vet, but unfortunately:

1) There is no compensation in the courts for a dog's pain and suffering, so all you could recover would be the cost of unnecessary or harmful treatments.

2) To prove that the treatments were unnecessary or harmful, you'd need the testimony of a veterinary expert witness--basically, another vet who examined or autopsied your dog, or at least reviewed the charts and file. That's because the fact that the treatments did not work does not  by itself prove malpractice--plenty of times, in human and animal medicine, the care provider does everything they are expected to and the patient does not recover. Such expert witnesses almost always are expensive--you have to pay for their time--and you can't get the witness cost back in the lawsuit. You are likely to spend as much or more on the case then you could recover.


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