In 2013, at the ICCFA convention in Tampa, Florida, legal expert Poul Lemasters, Esq., hosted an engaging and informative mock trial on a botched pet cremation. Utilizing a lifelike narrative, realistic jurors, and industry actors, Lemasters brought the characters to life and unearthed information that remains pertinent to the pet loss industry today.
To outline the circumstances, Molly, a Golden Retriever, was brought to a local vet clinic by her family for euthanasia. Following Molly’s euthanasia, the family signed a cremation agreement, intending for Molly’s ashes to be returned. However, a local news station later exposed that a pet crematory had been discarding pets in a landfill instead of performing proper cremations. Upon further investigation, Molly’s family discovered that the remains they received were not Molly’s, but rather a mix of random cremains from other pets.
In response, the family initiated legal action against both the Vet Clinic and the Pet Crematory. The ensuing trial involved arguments from all parties. Prior to the ICCFA convention, Lemasters had advertised for and recruited residents in the Tampa area as paid jurors for the mock trial. Two separate juries, unaware of the trial’s subject, returned surprisingly substantial awards for Molly’s family due to the mishandled cremation.
Above: Top, members of one of the juries listen to testimony. Above left, Ferfolia holds the mike as juror announces the verdict. Above right, the judge, played by Jeremiah Neville leads the juries back into the “courtroom” to announce their verdicts.
Jury A awarded the family 2.7 million dollars, while Jury B awarded 3.5 million dollars. These amounts encompassed negligence, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The verdicts held the pet crematory solely responsible for the losses. However, upon discovering that the Vet Clinic had marked up the cremation services for profit, the juries agreed that, had they known about this kickback, they would have split the responsibility 50/50 between the vet clinic and crematory.
Lemasters highlights two crucial lessons from the exercise. Firstly, accountability for others’ actions is possible even if it is their mistake. Secondly, the cost of a mistake can be substantial, as a jury may assign a large amount based on perception and emotions.
Companies should not only be cognizant of their own policies and procedures but also those of the businesses they engage with. Post-mock trial, many vet clinics became more attuned to the importance of deathcare. They began personally inspecting the pet crematories they utilized, checking service quality, and ensuring proper tracking when releasing pets for cremation.
For additional details, you can read the full article here.
Written by: Jeremiah Neville