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New Jersey Family Sues Army After Shrapnel Kills Cat

A New Jersey family has sued after a two-pound fragment of an artillery shell crashed through the roof of their daughter's bedroom and killed the family's cat, which was sleeping on their daughter's bed.

Four years later, they say their daughter is afraid to sleep in her room. The girl's mother is allegedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is also afraid to live in the house.

The two-pound fragment filled with explosive material was fired from Picatinny Arsenal in April, 2008. The arsenal stopped outdoor munitions testing after the accident.

The family had ongoing discussions with Brigadier General William Phillips of Picatinny after the incident. They attempted to settle the claim with the Army for several years, and were eventually offered $7,400, which they rejected.

Animals are considered the personal property of the owner and cannot be a party to a lawsuit. When a pet is injured or killed, their owners may sue to recover damages.

Traditionally, damages for the loss of a pet were based on a pet's market value. Thus, a rare purebred would be "worth more" than a mixed-breed mutt.

However, the law now focuses more on the effect on the human owners. Courts now consider whether pet owners can be compensated for the loss of companionship and emotional distress caused by the loss of the pet.

New Jersey is among the states in which courts have expressed a willingness to accept claims for the loss of a pet that go beyond market value.

In the 1998 New Jersey case of Hyland v. Borras, the plaintiff brought an action for damages after defendant's bulldog trespassed onto plaintiff's property and attacked the plaintiff's 10-year-old shih tzu, causing serious injuries. The court awarded "repair costs" of $2,500 - in excess of the dog's "replacement value" of $500.

If your family pet has been killed or injured due to the wrongful actions of others in New Jersey, or if you've suffered other property damage, contact the attorneys at the new Jersey Law Offices of Greenberg, Walden & Grossman, LLC. 

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