I presided over a unique case of veterinarian malpractice.
The case involved an misdiagnosis of two desert turtles. Both turtles started having problems with their back legs. The vet never x-rayed the turtles. Instead, he quickly concluded that the turtles were either poisoned or had a neurological abnormality.
The thirty-year old plaintiff’s parents bought the turtles as a present when he was a baby. He grew up with them. He was an only child, and the turtles were his pets, friends, and surrogate siblings.
The first turtle died. The plaintiff was devastated. He took the body of his beloved turtle to another vet for an autopsy. The vet discovered that the turtle died for complications caused by a very large gall stone. The second vet concluded that the first vet committed malpractice by misdiagnosing the problem. X-rays would have clearly revealed the correct medical condition.
The second vet X-rayed the second turtle and discovered it too had a large gall stone. He performed surgery to remove the gall stone.
Interestingly, the vet cut out a large section of shell underneath the turtle, removed the stone, and patched the shell with surf board fiberglass and resin.
The turtle owner filed a complaint with the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. The Board issued a formal opinion that the first vet was negligent by not X-raying the turtles.
The plaintiff just asked the vet for his money back, and the vet refused. So, the plaintiff filed a small claims case.
When I asked the vet to respond, he was very arrogant. He claimed that he is the pre-eminent authority on desert turtles, and the that state board are a bunch of idiots who do not know what they are doing. As far as he was concerned, the stupid state board was in no position to judge him or his actions.
I ruled for the plaintiff, who was only suing for the return of the small amount of money he paid to the negligent vet. The vet should have returned the money in the first place.
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