McMahon v. Craig


McMahon is the owner of a purebred dog named Tootsie, who is the last of her bloodline. When Tootsie became ill, McMahon took her to Craig, a veterinarian. Craig recommended corrective surgery with possible complications. McMahon informed Craig she was very fond of the dog prior to the procedure. The dog suffered these complications and died. Craig informed McMahon the dog died but hid the cause of death from her. McMahon sued Craig for intentional infliction of emotional distress and other charges. The trial court granted a demurrer without leave to amend, on the grounds a pet owner cannot be emotionally damaged for injuries caused by a veterinarian’s malpractice. The trial court also struck from the complaint statements of emotional distress. McMahon appealed the demurrer, pleading when Craig intentionally hid the reason for the dog’s death his conduct was outrageous.


Affirmed. Any extension of a duty of care to avoid causing emotional distress to pet owners is a matter best left to the legislature. Further, in evaluating whether a defendant’s conduct is outrageous it is not enough the defendant acted with a fraudulent intent. The conduct must be so outrageous in character to be utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Here, Craig’s attempt to hide his malpractice after McMahon knew it had died was not outrageous.