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When Veterinary Malpractice Seems So Obvious That No Expert is Needed

In a typical veterinary malpractice case, the plaintiff (the party suing the veterinarian) must retain a qualified expert witness in an attempt to prove that the veterinarian breached an applicable standard of care and that the breach, and not something else, caused the horse to be injured. Finding the right expert takes effort, and paying the right expert for his or her evaluation and time can be expensive.

In some cases, however, the facts are so compelling that courts have found that no expert witness is deemed necessary. Here are some of those cases:

  • In one veterinary malpractice case from New Hampshire, the allegations involved the veterinarian mistakenly operating on a mare instead of a stallion. [The case was: Durocher v. Rochester Equine Clinic, 629 A.2d 827 (N.H. 1993).]
  • In a case from New York, involving a dog, an owner brought her dog to a veterinary clinic while it was crying and showing signs of pain. The owner explained to the vet that the dog had broken into garbage and had been chewing on bones. The attending veterinarian never x-rayed the dog’s throat, esophagus, or stomach. After the dog died, a necropsy revealed that a chicken bone had perforated the dog’s esophagus, causing the death. The trial court ruled, and the appellate court agreed, that it was not necessary for plaintiff to present expert testimony to prove that a veterinarian should have x-ray the dog’s throat, esophagus and stomach if she suspects that the dog had swallowed something. [The case was Mathew v. Klinger, 686 N.Y.S.2d 549, 550 (1998).]

But court rulings can surprise you. In one case, a veterinarian left an instrument inside of a dog during a spaying procedure, but a Georgia court held that the plaintiff dog owner was nevertheless required to provide an expert witness to support a malpractice claim. [That case was Collins v. Newman, 517 S.E.2d 100 (Ga. App. 1999).]

Cases of veterinary malpractice can be complicated. If you suspect veterinary malpractice, contact a knowledgeable lawyer.

Categories: Veterinary Malpractice

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.

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Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.

Julie Fershtman’s Recent and Upcoming Equine Law Speaking Engagements Include:

National Conference on Equine Law in Louisville, Kentucky on April 29, 2020. Topic will be on Waivers/Releases of Liability Involving Minor Participants. 

U.S. Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA) Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado on December 10, 2019. Topic will be on Equine Liability. 

IRMI Emmett J. Vaughan Agribusiness Conference (“AgriCon”) in Sacramento, CA (April 2019), and Richmond, VA (June 2019) and in Des Moines, IA (September 2019), on topics of “Equine Activity Liability Acts” and “Equine Mortality Insurance Disputes.”

National Conference on Equine Law in May 2019 in Lexington, KY, on the topic of “Equine Activity Liability Act Updates” and liabilities involving hosting of equine clinics. 

Agricultural Claims Conference in Kansas City, MO, in March 2019 on topics of “Loose Livestock Liabilities.”

2018 American Bar Association Annual Meeting in Chicago, IL, on “Equine Mortality Coverage and Disputes.”

November 2018, American Horse Council webinar on “Equine Liability.”

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

What our Equine Law Services can Provide

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 


Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.

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