Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Six years after dog's death, woman wins case against pet hospital

In 2007, Cody, Liza Baceols’ 4-year-old golden retriever, died of cardiac arrest after going to Noah’s Place Animal Medical Center to have his tail removed.

Courtesy of Liza Baceols

In 2007, Cody, Liza Baceols’ 4-year-old golden retriever, died of cardiac arrest after going to Noah’s Place Animal Medical Center to have his tail removed.

CLEARWATER — A jury on Friday found in favor of a woman who sued a pet hospital after her dog died in its care.

In 2007, Cody, Liza Baceols' 4-year-old golden retriever, went to Noah's Place Animal Medical Center to have his tail removed due to a large tumor. While awaiting surgery at Noah's Place — now under new ownership — Cody chewed off his tail, went into cardiac arrest and died.

Although this week's trial was a success for Baceols, 40, there are additional legal battles to come because she is asking for more than what is typically owed to an owner who lost a pet due to negligence.

"He was family to us, and that's what (the court) needs to understand," said Baceols, who works for Raymond James Financial.

The case originally went to court in 2011, but the jury deadlocked after 11 hours of deliberation because they had to decide how much was owed to Baceols. In this week's retrial, the jury found that Noah's Place was grossly negligent, but another jury will decide how much Baceols should recover in a later trial.

Bryce Spano, the attorney representing Noah's Place and three veterinarians — Jennifer Buird, David Hoch and John Hodges — declined to comment.

Under Florida law, owners can recover only the market-value costs of replacing the lost pet. But Baceols believes she should get reparations for the pain and suffering that she and her son, now 16-year-old Kyle, endured after losing Cody.

To get more than the typical amount, Baceols will have to prove that the veterinarians' behavior was abnormally egregious, said Peter Fitzgerald, a Stetson University College of Law professor and expert in animal law.

Kenneth Newman, a veterinarian in Seminole and expert witness for Baceols, hopes that an outcome in her favor will encourage the courts to make similar decisions in the future.

Since his dog, Gracie, was killed by a car several years ago, Newman has been pushing Gracie's Law, which would consider pets' intrinsic value in damage assessment.

"One of the major constraints on advancing animal issues is that we continue to view animals as property, the same as a chair and a pencil," he said. "We can move beyond that without making them the same as humans."

Some states already have legislation that says people can collect damages beyond the replacement value of a pet, including Illinois, Rhode Island and Tennessee, Fitzgerald noted.

Baceols has since adopted a new dog, a mixed breed named Wanda. Baceols said she will always love Cody, but she is ready to close this chapter in her life.

"I'm so emotional," Baceols said. "I've never really been able to mourn, and now I can."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was changed to reflect the following correction.

A judge dismissed all legal claims against veterinarians Jennifer Buird, David Hoch and John Hodges prior to the jury reaching a verdict. A jury in Pinellas County decided Friday that only Noah's Place Animal Medical Center was liable in the 2007 death of a dog that was awaiting surgery at the facility.

A story published Saturday incorrectly reported the trial's outcome.


Six years after dog's death, woman wins case against pet hospital 06/21/13 [Last modified: Saturday, June 22, 2013 1:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Dodgers close in on World Series with 6-1 win over Cubs


    CHICAGO — Yu Darvish pitched into the seventh inning, Chris Taylor homered again and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Tuesday night to open a commanding 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Chris Taylor hits a home run Tuesday during the third inning of Game 3 of baseball's National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. [Associated Press]
  2. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  3. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears


    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts


    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  5. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse


    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …