Posted Jan 24, 2014 11:00 pm CST
Traditionally, animals were considered property whose only value is what it costs to purchase them or the amount of money they could produce through breeding, sale of their meat or similar business operations.
But that view has been changing, and Washington state attorney Adam Karp has been in the forefront of a movement to reconsider the legal value of animals to the humans who consider them part of their families. A strict vegan and a a practicing Buddhist, the University of Washington law grad initially made around $10,000 a year when he went out on his own and began focusing his practice on animals. Now the “St. Francis with a briefcase” bills his time at $300 an hour and has to turn down work, the Seattle Times in a lengthy article reports.
It’s still an uphill battle to persuade insurance adjusters and judges that owners should receive significant compensation for emotional distress over a pet’s death. Nonetheless, Karp has gotten tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. A federal civil rights suit against a small city in the state over a fatal police shooting of a wandering dog resulted in a $51,000 settlement, plus another $50,000 in attorney’s fees. Other wins included an $11,000 settlement in the death of a client’s Labrador retriever, mauled to death last spring in his own back yard by a neighbor’s pit bulls, and a $25,000 arbitration award that Karp is still trying to collect against a client’s ex-husband over the death of her cat at his hands.
“I wanted my dog back,” says Charles Corle of his 11-year-old Lab, “and that was never going to happen. It really came down to, do I just forget about it, become a vigilante, or try to go through the court system and hurt the guy the most through his pocketbook?
ABA Journal: “Their Day in Court”