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Pet Owners - Check Your Contract!

Keith G. Langer May 15, 2019

I frequently see complaints from pet owners whose animals suffered harm while at a groomer, kennel, or pet/sitting/boarding service. Naturally, these people want compensation for the costs of getting their pet's injuries treated, and their first reaction is to sue.

They may not be able to.

The contract with the service provider may contain a "hold-harmless" clause which precludes the provider being held liable for any damages an animal suffers; certainly those due to simple negligence. It would likely require proof of gross negligence, if not actual criminal conduct, to prevail over such a clause.

The other provision precluding a lawsuit is an arbitration clause. These are common in contracts and, if you have flown or taken a cruise, for examples, you were likely bound by one. Animal care providers also employ these clauses.

Simply put, these clauses mandate arbitration to settle claims. No judge and certainly no jury; only an arbitrator. While not a bar to a claim as a "hold-harmless" clause is, these are not placed there for the customer's benefit. By signing the contract, you will have waived your right to sue.

For an example of such a clause being held enforceable, see this story: