Suppose you’re an ant fancier and one of your prized possessions is a break-resistant, escape-proof Uncle Milton ant farm with sand between two panes of clear plastic. You spend hours every day watching your harvester ants build tunnels and tote morsels of food back and forth along their routes.
You started out with a couple hundred ants, gave them all names, and could tell most apart. Their life expectancy is dishearteningly brief – a mere three months -- and eventually, through natural attrition, your colony is reduced to a single ant: your personal favorite, Skippy.
Then, one day, you have to travel to an ant fanciers convention and you ask a trusted friend to look after Skippy. When you get back, you discover that your friend, after adding a droplet of water to keep Skippy properly hydrated, had forgotten to replace the top of the farm.
Skippy is missing!
You scour your apartment, but find no trace of the little critter. Then the phone rings. Forgetting for an instant that Skippy may still be on the premises, you stride to the phone and hear a sickening sound as you take your last step.
Oh no. It can’t be. You’ve stepped on Skippy.
Naturally, you’re heartbroken. But you’re also angry – at the friend whose carelessness allowed Skippy to escape and be trod underfoot.
You decide to sue your friend, but quickly discover that a single ant has almost no monetary value, especially one that’s pushing 90 (days).
But what about Skippy’s sentimental value? That would be enormous. After all, you loved that cute little ant.
Believe it or not, the Texas Supreme Court is presently grappling with this very issue – only the case in question involves a mistakenly euthanized dog.
The dog’s owners understandably are distraught, but there’s no objective way to establish sentimental values (read dollars) for pets and any attempt to do so will only benefit plaintiffs attorneys antsy to find a new cash stream.