A tort occurs where one individual breaches a duty allegedly owed to another. When the damage necessitates a judicial remedy, it is up to the courts to fix the appropriate level of compensation. The law distinguishes between two categories of compensatory awards and labels them ''economic'' and ''noneconomic'' remedies. When a loss falls into the latter category-that is, the damages suffered lack an ascertainable market value-judges have struggled to put a price on the harm.
This jurisprudential puzzle is particularly apparent in the pet loss context. Companion animals are defined as property under the law in all fifty states. Thus, when a court is confronted with the wrongful injury or death of a pet, it is generally reluctant to grant an award above and beyond the so-called market value of that animal. In response, economists have proposed a variety of valuation methods to better assess the ''true'' companion value of a pet.
But it is impossible to evaluate the companionship of breathing, sentient creatures using classic economic vernacular. In truth, the loss of a pet simply cannot be remunerated with money; no dollar amount can compensate for the loss of a companion animal. Instead, courts should recognize a new category of noneconomic ''solace damages," whereby judges may grant damage awards designed not to restore but to rectify or pacify the loss.
Ronald B. Lansing,
The Animal Companion Puzzle: A Worth Unknown Though Height Taken,
Animal L. Rev.
Available at: https://lawcommons.lclark.edu/alr/vol18/iss1/5