An award of over $65,000 to a Denver woman whose pet dog, Ruthie, was let out of her home by a cleaning service last year and got hit by a car, may be the largest verdict ever in Colorado for the death of a pet. The plaintiff said she offered to take Ruthie with her when she left Posh Maids in charge for a several-hour cleaning, but was told by a worker for the company would look after her pet.
The maid was told that if she needed to leave the house before she returned, to go out the back door. The door opens to an enclosed mudroom that would keep Ruthie from running out. About two and a half hours after she left the house, the dog ownerreceived a phone call from Posh Maids owner, Miranda Pallone, who said a second maid had been brought in and the two were done cleaning.
The dog owner came home with her 6-year-old daughter to find the dog dead under her table. No one had taken the dog to a vet or notified the owner that there had been an accident, according to her lawyer. She immediately called Pallone and asked what happened. Pallone told her that Ruthie darted out of the house and was hit by a car. Ruthie was “whimpering a little” when they left.
While Pallone admits that Ruthie ran out of the home as the maids were leaving, she said the dog ran back into the house and started growling and acting aggressively toward the maids. At that point, they followed company policy concerning aggressive animals and left the house. Neither of the maids ever touched the dog, Pallone said.
Traditionally, pet owners have been restricted to the replacement value for their loss of a pet. The ruling in this trial sets a damages precedent that animals are worth more than their replacement value, recognizing the growing status many pets have with their owners.