Who Gets to Keep Trover?
A man has a dog, “Trover,” who suddenly becomes ill. Trover loses all interest in chasing tennis balls, running around the park, sniffing, and other normal doggy activities. A visit to the vet ensues, with the result that Trover needs a $7,500 operation or he will die. This is far beyond the owner’s means, so instead he pays the vet $250 to have her put Trover to sleep. The owner, depressed, signs the authorization forms, and leaves the vet’s office.
About six months later, the man visits the park, and there is a dog that looks just like Trover. In fact, it is Trover. Not a ghost dog, but a dog that is alive and well, and out for a romp with… the vet. Upon questioning, the vet admits that Trover was such a sweet dog that she’s couldn’t let him die, and she decided to perform the operation at her own expense. Trover lives at her house and plays with her kids.
The man demands Trover back. The vet refuses, and she claims Trover is her dog now.
In your opinion, who gets custody of the dog?
(p.s. I previously posted this hypo to the fabulous AALS Contracts listserve, but no definitive answer was reached despite a willingness to talk about the law of bailments. Similar facts were reported as part of this news story.)