Sorry to hear about your situation. I am not aware of any specific cause of action against your vet for releasing your dog to your former husband. Since a pet is generally considered personal property, you might try a claim based on the tortious interference with personal property interests. This type of claim is typically brought under a negligence theory or what is called trespass to chattel. Again, these causes of action do not fit perfectly with your facts, making it difficult to bring and maintain suit.
If you do decide to file a new statement of claim alleging negligence, you must show a duty, breach of duty, causation and damages. This means you need to show that the vet had a duty not to release the records/dog, that they breached that duty, and that they were the proximate cause of your damage (loss). This probably sounds similar to what you were trying to allege in your first attempt, the problem was you were suing under a theory of breach of contract which has completely different elements that would never fit here.
As you can tell this is very technical stuff and I would need to write you a book (literally) to explain everything with adequate detail. That is why the judge suggested you hire an attorney. However, the court can't force you to retain an attorney and you could try again by yourself, but you will risk having your case dismissed with prejudice (meaning you can't refile a third time) if the defendant is successful with their next motion to dismiss.
On the bright side, some attorneys will agree to handle a small claims action for a flat fee and will also accept payment arrangements to help you pay.
Best of luck to you!
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Dear M. Donnelly, I just replied, but my internet service keeps going in and out, so it didn't go through. If this one doesn't get through, I'll have to try again tomorrow.
Thank you for your reply, but I don't think you understood my case, thereby making your first paragraph re tortious interference of personal property or trespass to chattel non-responsive.
My ex stole my dog directly from me. Then, he gave it to people in another state (NC)after convincing my vet to release my dog's records to him. He refused to give me any info whatsoever about where the dog had been taken. It cost me dearly financially, physically, and emotionally, to do my own 3 month search to find my dog, travel a minimum of 3 times to NC once I'd narrowed the search and eventually found the people who had the dog, but refused to return him to me and then absconded to yet a different state (VA) in an attempt to avoid being served once I filed the case they knew I was going to file against them....thereby dragging it all out another 3 months and causing 3 more months of loneliness and fear. Despite the 'chattel' issue, which I already knew I'd be up against, especially since the people I was suing had not known they were accepting a stolen animal (which, in my opinion, strengthens my case for causation in that had my ex not had the dog's records, they might have questioned why he had a 7-year-old dog with no vet records they were agreeing to take into their home where they already had 3 other dogs), I prevailed in that case and the judge ordered that my dog be returned to me! I made one final trip to NC to pick him up since the judge had informed us at the end of the trial that she needed a ten day period of time to take the matter under advisement, and that we'd be notified by mail. Naturally, I was crushed knowing I had to leave the state and go back home without getting the chance to even say goodbye to my dog in the event that I lost the case. It also meant that if I won, I would again have to arrange for at least one other person to accompany me to NC and back due to my disabilities and my inability to drive so far away.
My small claims case in FL is about the vet releasing my dog's records without my permission and I cited the FL state statute declaring that they are not allowed to do so similar to human's right to privacy under HIPAA Laws. I also established ownership by providing the Judge's official order in the NC case declaring me the owner and returning the dog to me (in addition to providing the court with all of his papers and affidavits from the breeder, etc. proving I had had him since the age of 8 weeks.)
I believe my problem with the small claims case against the vet in FL is causation. I already threw in every possible grounds in my original case including Negligence and Breach of Duty when I cited the FL state statute and the fact that I had also specifically asked my vet to remove my ex's name and phone number from the vet records because he had nothing whatsoever to do with the dog. I also have a 'bone to pick' (pun intended!) with my vet because his wife, his partner in the business, actually threatened me once she realized what she had done by releasing my dog's records to a non-owner without my permission...especially after they'd noted in the very same records that I had requested my ex be removed from anything having to do with my dog. (The vet and his wife were social acquaintances of my ex's.)
It would be nice if I had an affidavit from the people I sued in NC to get my dog back stating that they would not have accepted my dog from my ex without the dog's vet records given that they had other dogs to be concerned about to help prove causation.
However, I'm sure you can appreciate my dilemma there! Is there any other way I can prove causation?
I understand that I also have not only a criminal case against my ex, but could also go after him in small claims. However, I'm particularly incensed that people I had trusted to care for my dog and protect him from harm, are who I believe are responsible for allowing any of it to happen in the first place and need a 'wake-up' call before they betray someone else's trust. The difference is that I expect that from my ex.
Thanks so much!
If your Husband took the dog, you could name both the vet and him as defendant's under a theory of conversion. I don't have any other ideas on the causation issue other than to suggest that you be sure to thoroughly explain every element of negligence (duty breach of duty, proximate cause and damages) and don't use the "throwing spaghetti at the wall method" where you list everything you can thing of and hope something "sticks". Stay with negligence because that seems to fit best, XXXXX XXXXX't even mention breach of contract.
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