For people who travel frequently (or at least used to) and have a pet, part of planning a trip involves finding someone to look after their canine or feline family members while they’re away. Deciding a place to board their pets can be stressful, weighing things like who will be caring for the animals, how much it costs, and whether there’ll be some sort of nanny cam where you can check in on your furry friend.
If you’re someone who deals with the kind of anxiety where you always think about the worst-case-scenario in any given situation, you’ve probably already considered (and worried about) what might happen if your pet dies while in someone else’s care. What are your legal rights in that situation? What kinds of laws apply? What happens when a case like this goes to court? We spoke with several attorneys and an animal behaviorist to find out.
How are pets viewed under the law?
There’s no easy way to say this, but in most cases, pets are considered property. “Under common law applied in most of the United States, pets are considered property, just like a car or a watch or an item of clothing,” Morghan Richardson, family law partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, tells Lifehacker.
And according to Ryan Reiffert, a business, corporate, and transactional attorney in San Antonio, Texas with the Law Offices of Ryan Reiffert, PLLC, because of pets’ status as property, their humans would have the same legal remedies as they would in situations where any other piece of property was damaged. Typically, he says this means that in court, a pet won’t be worth much more than what you paid for it, or the money you spent on training.
If a pet is injured while in someone else’s care, its owner can recover the cost of “repairs,” which in this case would be veterinary and other expenses needed for the pet to recover, according to Thomas J. Simeone, a personal injury attorney at Simeone & Miller, LLP who has extensive experience with cases involving injured pets. In situations where the pet cannot be saved, he explains, their owner is entitled to the “cost” of the pet on the date of the negligence—determined by researching the value of similar breeds of dogs of the same age and sex.
What about emotional damage?
But surely, it’s widely understood that pets are frequently considered part of a human family—that has to make a difference, right? Nope. “Generally you cannot get emotional distress damages,” Reiffert tells Lifehacker. “I wish it were otherwise—my rescue dog is incredibly dear to me, basically like a child—but that’s generally the law.” Along the same lines, Simeone says that people with pets are not legally entitled to recover damages for pain and suffering—either their own or the pet’s—because the pet is considered “personal property” and not a living thing.
There is a chance, however, that this approach could change. According to Richardson, in recent years, some courts in the United States have indicated a willingness to acknowledge that pets—though not human—are fundamentally different from other forms of property. “The close relationship that many owners have with their pets simply isn’t the same as the feelings people have about their clothes or their cars,” she explains. “But this new approach, which could allow pet owners whose animals were killed at a kennel or daycare to pursue claims for emotional distress, for example, has not yet been adopted.”
How could situations like this even happen?
Russell Hartstein, an animal behaviorist and trainer and the founder of Fun Paw Care, LLC, has served as an expert witness in cases where dogs have been injured or killed in a daycare or boarding facility. As someone with experience in both animal behavior and running a dog training and daycare business, Hartstein says he’s all too familiar with the types of facilities where pets’ safety is compromised. “I am keenly aware of the inherent flaws within these volume-based business models, most of the time run by ‘professionals’ with no certifications or credentials in the field of animal behavior,” he tells Lifehacker.
Dogs are dyadic in nature, Hartstein explains—meaning they thrive in one-on-one playgroups that are structured specifically for their breed, size, energy level, age, sex and personality temperament. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, dog boarding facilities and daycares are dangerous for a dog,” he says. “And [pet] parents misunderstand, [thinking] that their pet is happy, when the pet is actually stressed. Most dog health, emotional, physical, medical and behavioral problems occur at kennels and dog daycares.”
What legal issues are involved?
People have a right to have someone supervise their pets while they’re away, David Reischer, an attorney and CEO of LegalAdvice.com, explains. The daycare, kennels, or boarding locations then assume a duty of care for the pets in their custody, which includes responsibilities like providing food and water, taking pets to vet appointments, administering medicine if necessary, taking dogs out for a walk, and providing companionship, Reischer says.
If a pet is injured or killed while in the care of a boarding facility of daycare, the pet sitter may be responsible for compensating the pet’s person as the result of a civil lawsuit. “The law treats all pets like property, and the damages that result from an injured or killed pet would be monetary damages,” Reischer explains. “Legal theories for damage to property include conversion, trespass to chattel, or the intentional infliction of emotional distress. Unless the injury or death to the pet was intentional, then criminal charges likely cannot be brought. However, some states do have ‘animal cruelty’ laws for when a person intentionally, maliciously, and purposefully hurts an animal.”
What has to be proven in court?
If a pet is injured or killed while in someone else’s care, that duty of care has been breached as a result of negligence or reckless behavior. When cases like this are brought to court, first there should be an evaluation and analysis of the specific facts surrounding why the pet was injured or killed, according to Reischer. “If a pet were killed while at a kennel or daycare, its owner must prove first that the kennel or daycare failed to exercise a reasonable standard of care, and second, that their failure resulted in injury or the death of the pet,” Richardson explains. “The same legal standard would apply to a dry cleaner who lost or badly damaged your clothes, or an auto repair shop that ruined your car.”
Ultimately, Reischer says that the law does not afford much protection to pets that are killed while in the care of another person. “There is a higher duty of care owed by veterinarians to a pet than most other sitters, but even a pet that is killed while in the care of a veterinarian is a very difficult lawsuit to bring,” he explains. “A person that brings a pet to another person for care unfortunately takes on significant risk that the law does not compensate if the pet is killed.”
Should you hire a lawyer?
Over the years, several people have contacted Simeone after their pet was injured or died while it was being boarded. “Each time, I explain that they can only recover the cost of any treatment, or the ‘value’ of the pet on the date of [their] death, they are upset,” he says, noting that this can also be the case in situations where pets have been attacked by other pets.
Typically, though, Simeone says that he isn’t brought on for cases like this, because the damages a person is entitled to doesn’t justify retaining an attorney. Instead, they attempt to resolve the case themselves, through small claims court or out-of-court negotiations. In other words, look into the cost of an attorney before hiring one for this particular type of case.
What to do before boarding your pet
Obviously, you never want to leave for a trip preparing for something truly awful to happen to your pet while you’re away, but there are a few things you can do before your departure that might help. First, Reischer recommends taking/having some photographic record of your pet’s health before dropping it off for daycare or boarding (which is also handy to have anyway, in case your pet gets lost). If it’s a case where you’re looking to be reimbursed for damages, having “before” pictures could be useful.
Also, in light of the limited damages available to people whose pet has been injured or died in someone else’s care, Simeone says that legally, the best thing to do is to pick a kennel or pet-sitter carefully. “With limited legal recourse, prevention is the best policy,” he says.
Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee dies at 78
Samsung Electronics has announced the death of its chairman, Lee Kun-hee. The company says he died on October 25th with family including his son, vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong, at his side. He was 78.
A cause of death was not given, but Lee had been incapacitated for many years after suffering a heart attack in 2014, causing him to withdraw from public life. Jae-yong, also known as Jay Y. Lee, has been widely assumed to take over upon his father’s passing and has been viewed as the de facto leader in recent years.
Lee Kun-hee was a controversial figure who played a huge part in pushing Samsung from a cheap TV and appliances maker to one of the most powerful technology brands in the world. He became the richest man in South Korea, with the Samsung group contributing around a fifth of the country’s GDP. In its statement, Samsung says that Lee’s declaration of “new management” in 1993 was “the motivating driver of the company’s vision to deliver the best technology to help advance global society.”
Lee also often found himself in legal trouble. He was convicted of bribing President Roh Tae-woo through a slush fund in 1995, and of tax evasion and embezzlement in 2008, but was pardoned twice. The second pardon came in 2009 and was made “so that Lee could take back his place at the International Olympic Committee and form a better situation for the 2018 Olympics to take place in Pyongchang,” South Korea’s justice minister said at the time.
Lee’s passing will reignite inevitable speculation over the succession process. While Lee Jae-yong has long been groomed to become chairman, he’s had legal issues of his own since his father’s incapacitation, spending almost a year in jail for his role in the corruption scandal that brought down former South Korean president Park Geun-hye. South Korean law also means that anyone assuming Lee’s assets will face paying several billion dollars in inheritance tax, which might force them to reduce their stake in the company.
Samsung chairman dies at age 78
Lee Kun-hee, the long-time chairman of Samsung Group who transformed the conglomerate into one of the world’s largest business empires, died today at the age of 78, according to reports from South Korean leading news agency Yonhap.
The story of Samsung is deeply intertwined with the history of its home country, which is sometimes dubbed “The Republic of Samsung.” Lee, the son of Samsung founder Lee Byung-chul, came to power in the late 1980s just as South Korea transitioned from dictatorship to democracy with the political handover from military strongman Chun Doo-hwan to Roh Tae-woo. Under his management, Samsung spearheaded initiatives across a number of areas in electronics, including semiconductors, memory chips, displays, and other components that are the backbone of today’s digital devices.
Lee navigated the challenging economic troubles of the 1990s, including the 1998 Asian financial crisis, which saw a near collapse of the economies of South Korea and several other so-called Asian Tigers, as well as the Dot-Com bubble, which saw the collapse of internet stocks globally.
Coming out of those challenging years, Lee invested in and is probably most famous today for building up the conglomerate’s Galaxy consumer smartphone line, which evolved Samsung from an industrial powerhouse to a worldwide consumer brand. Samsung Electronics, which is just one of a spider web of Samsung companies, is today worth approximately $350 billion, making it among the most valuable companies in the world.
While his business acumen and strategic insights handling Samsung were lauded, he faced troubles in recent years. He was convicted of tax evasion in the late 2000s, but was ultimately pardoned by the country’s then president Lee Myung-bak (no relation).
Samsung has also been under fire from groups including Elliott Management over chairman Lee’s attempts to secure the financial future of Samsung for his son, Lee Jae-yong, who took over effective leadership of the conglomerate following the elder Lee’s heart attack in 2014. Lee Jae-yong has suffered his own run-ins with the law, having been found guilty of bribery and sentenced to five years in prison, which was ultimately suspended by a judge.
After his heart attack, Lee Kun-hee remained hospitalized in stable condition according to Yonhap. Rumors of his condition have percolated in the six years since.
According to Bloomberg, Lee leaves behind roughly $20 billion in wealth, and he is the wealthiest South Korean citizen. He is survived by his wife as well as four children.
Human Capital: Court ruling could mean trouble for Uber and Lyft as gig workers may finally become employees
Welcome back to Human Capital! As many of you know, Human Capital is a weekly newsletter where I break down the latest in labor, as well as diversity and inclusion in tech. It’s officially available as a newsletter, so if you want this content when it comes in hot Fridays at 1 p.m. PT, subscribe here.
Since the election is coming up, this edition focuses heavily on California ballot measure Proposition 22. The TL;DR is that gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash really want to keep classifying their drivers and delivery folks as independent contractors, so they put millions of dollars into this ballot measure. This week, we saw Prop 22-related complaints and lawsuits filed, and an appeals court judge decide Uber and Lyft must reclassify their drivers. We also heard directly from gig workers on both sides about why they do or do not want to be independent contractors.
But we’ll also look at SoftBank’s first investment from its D&I fund, Pinterest’s addition of a new Black board member and more. Let’s jump in.
Uber and Lyft must classify drivers as employees, court rules
But. And this is a big but. Uber and Lyft will likely appeal this decision and it’s also possible this decision won’t matter depending on how Prop 22 goes. We’re just a couple of weeks out from Election Day and this decision has a thirty day hold on it once the remittitur goes into effect. And that remittitur has not yet been issued.
Throughout the case, Uber and Lyft have argued that reclassifying their drivers as employees would cause irreparable harm to the companies. In the ruling today, the judge said neither company would suffer any “grave or irreparable harm by being prohibited from violating the law” and that their respective financial burdens “do not rise to the level of irreparable harm.”
Additionally, there is nothing in the preliminary injunction, according to the judge, that would prevent Uber and Lyft from offering flexibility and independence to their drivers. Lastly, the judge said Uber and Lyft have had plenty of time to transition their drivers from independent contractors to employees, given that the key case in passing AB 5, the gig worker bill that spurred this lawsuit, was decided in 2018.
Amazon workers protest for time off to vote
Ahead of Election Day, Amazon employees protested at the company’s headquarters in Seattle for paid time off to vote. In a statement to GeekWire, Amazon said employees that don’t have enough time off can request additional, excused time off.
“The number of hours and pay provided to employees varies by state in line with local laws,” the spokesperson said.
According to GeekWire, Amazon notified managers that they should approve PTO requests for voting.
Tech companies that are giving employees paid time off for Election Day include Salesforce, Apple (hourly employees get four hours), Facebook, Twitter, Uber and others.
No on Prop 22 camp files complaint with USPS against Yes on 22
Opponents of California’s Proposition 22 filed a complaint this week with the United States Postal Service. The No on 22 campaign alleges the Yes side is not eligible for a nonprofit postal status and is asking USPS to revoke its permit.
It’s much cheaper to send campaign mailers as a nonprofit organization. For example, sending between 1 – 200,000 small mailers to every door normally costs $0.302 per piece. As a nonprofit, that costs $0.226 per piece, according to USPS. To be clear, the Yes on 22 campaign confirmed it was formed as a nonprofit organization under IRS section 501(c)(4), which pertains to social welfare organizations. But the No on 22 side says USPS erred in approving the Yes on 22 campaign.
In a statement to TC, Yes on 22 spokesperson Geoff Vetter said, “As a 501(c)(4) organization, Yes on 22 is eligible for the appropriate nonprofit postage rates with the USPS, which we applied for and were granted by the U.S. Postmaster.”
Uber faces class-action lawsuit over Prop 22
Uber is facing a class-action lawsuit over Proposition 22 that alleges the company is illegally coercing its drivers to support the ballot measure that seeks to keep workers classified as independent contractors. The suit was brought forth by two Uber drivers, Benjamin Valdez and Hector Castellanos, as well as two California nonprofit organizations, Worksafe and Chinese Progressive Association.
In the suit, the plaintiffs argue Uber has encouraged its drivers and delivery workers to support Prop 22 via the company’s driver-scheduling app.
“This is an absurd lawsuit, without merit, filed solely for press attention and without regard for the facts,” Uber spokesperson Matt Kallman said in a statement to TechCrunch. “It can’t distract from the truth: that the vast majority of drivers support Prop 22, and have for months, because they know it will improve their lives and protect the way they prefer to work.”
Shipt workers protest outside Target and Shipt headquarters
Shipt shoppers followed through with their protest plans this week when they staged actions at Target’s headquarters in Minneapolis and Shipt’s headquarters in Birmingham, Ala.
Ahead of the protests, Shipt shopper and organizer with Gig Workers Collective told me his goal was to bring attention to the new pay structure Shipt began rolling out and how shoppers “are getting paid less for more effort.”
Gig workers speak for and against Prop 22
TC relaunched the Mixtape podcast and as part of that, Henry Pickavet and I chatted with Vanessa Bain, an Instacart shopper who opposes Prop 22 and Doug Mead, a gig worker who supports Prop 22. The whole episode is worth listening to, but here are some key nuggets from them. First up, Bain:
“If all it takes is putting the hiring process and the bossing into an app on your phone to rewrite labor laws, every company on the planet is going to be doing that. There’s so much more, unfortunately, at stake here than just Uber and Lyft and ride share and grocery delivery and how you’re going to get your DoorDash orders. Literally the future of labor is at stake.”
Next up, Mead:
“It’s really the government — their intent to remove a person’s control over how they want to be compensated. And that to me just makes no sense whatsoever,” Mead told us. “I should be in control of how I want to be compensated and by who.”
You can check out the full episode here.
SoftBank invests in Vitable Health as part of D&I fund
SoftBank’s $100 million Opportunity Fund, which it formed in June to invest in founders of color, made its first bet on Vitable Health. The company focuses on providing health insurance to underserved and low-income communities.
SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund led the $1.6 million round, which included participation from Y Combinator, DNA Capital, Commerce Ventures, MSA Capital, Coughdrop Capital and a handful of angel investors.
Pinterest brings on another Black board member
Pinterest brought on its second Black female board member, Salaam Coleman Smith. Smith’s appointment comes a couple of months after Pinterest appointed its first Black board member, Andrea Wishom.
Smith is the former EVP of Programming and Strategy at Disney’s ABC Family and Freeform, as well as former president of Comcast NBCUniversal’s Style Media.
Here’s an updated look at Black board member representation at major tech companies.
Netflix is launching a tech bootcamp for HBCU students
Netflix announced a virtual HBCU Boot Camp for students from Norfolk State University, a historically black university in Virginia. Specifically, it’s open for current students and alumni from the classes of 2019 and 2020.
In partnership with online education platform 2U, the boot camp will teach 130 students Java engineering, UX/UI design and data science over the course of 16 weeks beginning in January. A bonus is that members of Netflix’s data science, engineering and design teams will serve as mentors to the students.
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