C.A. Revives Fraud Action Over Cat’s Death
Opinion Says One-Year Time Bar Applicable to Suit for Veterinarians’ Malpractice Does Not Govern
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The one-year statute of limitation applicable to actions for veterinarian malpractice does not pertain to an action for deceit based on an animal hospital allegedly assuring a woman that her cat was “doing great” when he was moribund and failing to disclose that it had applied flea-control medication which she had directed not be used because it had previously caused her pet to go into a seizure, the Court of Appeal for this district has held.
Div. Seven’s presiding justice, Dennis Perluss, authored the opinion, which was not certified for publication. Should publication subsequently be ordered, its reasoning in concluding that the three-year time bar applicable to fraud actions governs would be pertinent to lawsuits for malpractice where the alleged victim is a human.
Thursday’s opinion concerns the death on Dec. 7, 2017, of plaintiff Monireh Anvary’s cat, Dennis, who was her “comfort animal.” The action, filed on Dec. 9, 2019, is against Access Specialty Animal Hospital, in Woodland Hills, and two of its veterinarians, Joyce Lee and Heather Madden.
Anvary averred in her amended complaint that she “would not have allowed Defendants to continue treating her cat had they not lied to her about her cat was getting better, improving, and doing great, whenever his health status was inquired by the Plaintiff.”
Allegations of Complaint
Dennis was brought to the facility based on his inability urinate over a day’s period and having a cold.
The pleading, drafted by Granada Hills attorney Chris Conway, sets forth:
“The Defendants made false representations as to material facts with knowledge of the falsity of the facts in the following manner: During each and every status phone call when Plaintiff asked for a status update on her cat, Defendants failed to disclose to the Plaintiff of the unauthorized medications administered to her cat and his violent reactions to these medications. To the contrary, they lied and communicated the opposite, falsely stating that her cat was doing ‘great’. They concealed his vomiting, his seizures, his drop of body temperature, his being overdosed, and his complete deterioration while under their care, instead misrepresenting at each status request, that Dennis was ‘doing great’ and making great progress with his kidney numbers. They never advised Plaintiff of her cat’s true tumultuous condition in reaction to the over dosage of medication being given to him nor did they disclose the kind of medications being administered to him.”
The complaint asserts that Dennis “was suffering and dying because of the intentional misconduct of the Defendants, and each of them, and they knew it, but would deliberately conceal it from the Plaintiff.”
Perluss said that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Bernie LaForteza correctly sustained demurrers without leave to amend as to Anvary’s causes of action for trespass to chattel and conversion in light of the one-year statute applicable to a veterinarian’s “neglect resulting in injury or death to an animal,” Code of Civil Procedure §340(c). But, the presiding justice declared, LaForteza erred in applying that statute to the cause of action for deceit.
“Although Anvary alleged the defendants repeatedly misrepresented Dennis’s condition when she called to check on his status ‘to cover up their wrongdoings’ and claims that misinformation prevented her from possibly saving the cat’s life by taking him to a different clinic—allegations closely linked to those for veterinary malpractice—she also alleged misrepresentations were knowingly made to persuade her to keep Dennis at Access Hospital, avoiding a demand for a refund of her initial deposit, and with the intention of causing her to incur additional costs. Those allegations of fraud for financial gain fall outside the scope of section 340, subdivision (c), and instead are governed by section 338, subdivision (d)’s three-year limitations period. The claim for deceit is not time-barred.”
Sec. 338(d) applies to “[a]n action for relief on the ground of fraud.”
The case is Sanders v. Madden, B316082.
Conway represented Anvary on appeal. Acting for the veterinarians were George M. Wallace and Lisa J. of the Granada Hills firm of Brown Wallace, Brown & Schwartz.
Presenting the position of Access Specialty Animal Hospital were Raul L. Martinez and Timothy R. Windham of the downtown Los Angeles firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith.
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