What is the Value of Your Dog Losing his/her Life?


Former Utah Utes Football head coach Ron McBride checked his German Shepherd named Christa into a dog hotel while the family had a large number of guests over the their home for a wedding. At the dog hotel, Christa was sleeping in an enclosed area unseen by guests and staff. The staff knew that two of their other dogs were aggressive, put they let them into Christa’s same enclosure anyway. Those two dogs attacked and killed Christa.

The article with video appears here: https://fox13now.com/2018/07/03/graphic-video-shows-dog-brutally-mauled-in-aggressive-attack-at-murray-doggie-daycare/

Under both criminal and civil law in Utah, the killing of a person is treated very differently than the killing of a dog. Our focus is on civil law. In Utah, as dog owners, we are held strictly liable for any damages caused by our dogs. Civil law is not focused on punishing the dog owners, it’s focused on trying to help the victims. If a person were negligently killed, Utah law dictates that his or her family may recover monetary compensation for “wrongful death.” The idea behind monetary compensation for personal injuries is to try to make the injured victim whole again. It’s imperfect, but we don’t have a time machine so the law tries to use money to make it like it never happened. For a small injury, using the money to pay medical bills and lost wages can be a good start to making someone feel whole, but no amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one.

Wrongful death damages allow money for:

  1. Funeral and burial expenses, and any medical expenses incurred before the death.
  2. Wages that the deceased would have earned in their lifetime had it not been cut short.
  3. Compensation for the emotional pain experienced by the family members as a result of the loss of their loved one.
  4. Compensation for the lost relationship including: companionship, guidance, and care for the remainder of what would have been the expected lifetime.

As you can imagine, C and D are extremely hard to assign a monetary value to because no amount of money can really make up for the loss. In Utah, rarely do people ever sue for money from each other. More than 9 times out of 10, it’s just the at-fault person’s insurance policy that has to pay the claim. That’s why we have insurance. Rarely does anyone have enough insurance to pay what a wrongful death claim is actually worth, so these cases usually settle for whatever the max policy limit is on the applicable insurance. Typically could be anywhere between 25,000 and 1 Million.  

Dogs Valued Like Property?

By contrast, under current Utah law, when one of our dogs is killed as a result of someone else being negligent, the only damages we get is for “property loss.” What that means is that the life of our actual dogs and our relationships with them are awarded nothing. The only thing we can be compensated for is the value of purchasing a replacement dog. This puts our dogs in the same classification as if we had lost our bike or our car, or our cell phone- nothing more.

This story raises the question of whether the lost life of our dogs should be valued like a piece of personal property, or should it be valued something more like the loss of a family member?

Please weigh in with your own thoughts and let us know what you think the law should be.

As far as criminal law related to dog attacks, the Utah Statute appears below:

UTAH CODE 769-301 Cruelty to animals

    • A person is guilty of aggravated cruelty to an animal if the person:
      • (a) tortures an animal;
      • (b) administers, or causes to be administered, poison or a poisonous substance to an animal; or
      • (c) kills an animal or causes an animal to be killed without having a legal privilege to do so
  • Penalty:
    • (a) a class A misdemeanor if committed intentionally or knowingly;
    • (b) a class B misdemeanor if committed recklessly; and
    • (c) a class C misdemeanor if committed with criminal negligence.
  • The defendant negligently caused an animal to be killed.



Utah Proposes New Cell Phone Law

Utah Proposes New Cell Phone Law

Utah currently has a law in place to limit the use of cell phones while driving. A new law has now been proposed that would make the standards quite a bit more strict. The current law and the newly proposed law are compared below.

utah cell phone law

Current Utah Cell Phone Law


The current law states that drivers cannot use their electronic devices while operating a moving motor vehicle to manually:


  1. Write, send, or read written communication; such as
    1. Texting
    2. Email
    3. Instant messaging
  2. Dial a phone number;
  3. Access the Internet;
  4. View or record video; or
  5. Enter any data into an electronic device.


The current law states that operators of moving motor vehicles are not prohibited in using an electronic device:


  1. To communicate for voice communication;
  2. To navigate;
  3. In a medical emergency;
  4. To report a safety hazard;
  5. To report criminal activity;
  6. Such as law enforcement using electronic devices for their employment similarly to a citizen reporting a criminal activity; and
  7. Using the electronic device “hands-free”, or if the device is electronically integrated into the motor vehicle.


Proposed New Utah Cell Phone Law


For the proposed new law that would replace the current law, the State of Utah would allow the operator of a moving motor vehicle to use an electronic device if it is “hands-free”. “Hands-free” is defined as “technology that allows the use of a handheld wireless communication device without manual manipulation, including a system physically”; electronically integrated devices in motor vehicles are considered “hands-free”.




Proposed new law: what would be considered unlawful for the State of Utah regarding electronic device usage while operating a motor vehicle would be:


  1. Any electronic device usage outside of the definition of a “hands-free” device or an integrated electronic device, including but not limited to:


    1. Placing or receiving a voice communication;
    2. Texting;
    3. Email;
    4. Dialing phone numbers;
    5. Accessing the Internet;
    6. View/record video or photo; or
    7. Enter any data into an electronic device.


In other words, any electronic device usage while operating a vehicle that it not “hands-free” could land you a ticket. When someone uses their electronic device while operating a motor vehicle, they are putting themselves, their passengers, and other drivers at risk.

This new law would ban the current exceptions we have in place to the rule that Utahn’s cannot manually enter data into their phone while operating a moving motor vehicle. The biggest difference this new law would make is that, currently, you are able to make a call while at a stop, then hold the phone to your head and begin driving during the conversation. Under this new law, that would no longer be ok. So basically, if you can’t do it using your bluetooth and your voice, then you can’t do it while moving. Many states already have similar laws in place. Any law that makes Utah roads a safe place to be is probably a good idea in our eyes.

For more on this proposal, check out the article here: https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2017/12/27/will-utah-legislators-answer-new-call-to-ban-phone-use-while-driving/

2017 Coloring Contest Winners

Our 4th annual Back-to-School Coloring Contest has come to a close. We had more entries this year than ever before. Some kids really went above and beyond in adding 3-D specials effects, glitter, or a variety of other artistic additions to their entries. They were all very good and we really appreciate that so many parents and their kids took the time to enter our contest. It was a lot of fun taking a look at each one. We hope the safety messages to buckle-up in the car and wear a helmet on your bike are things the kids will remember.

Congratulations to our grand-prize winner, Carlos. Take a look at that $500.00 smile:

We also had 4 other winners at the $100.00 level. Here are a few more photos:

cedar city coloring contest

law firm

andrew spainhower lawyer

Our goal with this contest is to do something fun that gives back to the community in some way. Many people in St. George trust us to handle their legal issues and protect their rights when they need help the most- after an injury. Car accidents happen every day in Southern Utah, sometimes they aren’t so bad, but sometimes they can be devastating. Our goal is to help people in Southern Utah get taken care of properly after every crash. We want to say thank you to those of you who have trusted us when you needed help. We look forward to continuing to give back to this community with our Christmas Giveaway contest this year.

Thanks again,

McMullin Legal Group

Safety Coloring Contest Winners – 2016!

Announcing the Winners of McMullin Legal Group’s 3rd Annual Safety Coloring Contest!    dsc_1042-copy Our Grand Prize Winner: Emmett, is all about the benjamins.

Our 3rd Annual Safety Coloring Contest featured more entries than ever. Some contestants got very creative we saw everything ranging from helmets shining with glitter, to even pop-out 3D art! We appreciate the hundreds of parents who took the time to have their kids participate. Thank you for doing your part to teach our kids about the importance of safety.

Too often, we see children get hurt by cars. Whether they are in the car, or on a bike, or just playing on foot in their own neighborhood, its never to early for children in our community to start learning about how to be safe around vehicles. We look forward to repeating this tradition each year. Thanks for working together with us to help teach kids about the importance of safety.

st george coloring

Our grand-prize winner finding out he won

Our winners were drawn out at random. Our grand prize winner took home $500 and our four second place winners received $100 a piece. Please enjoy the smiling faces of our artists featured below:

dsc_1043 dsc_1044 dsc_1045  dsc_1047 dsc_1048 dsc_1049




Thanks so much to everyone who participated in our 2015 Back-to-School Coloring Contest. Congratulations to our winners! We received loads of entries, and in the end, these five local kids took home the cash. Our $500 grand prize winner was: Emily Ord, age 12. We had four 2nd place winners that took home a stack of 100 one-dollar-bills: Easton Ellet, age 13; Aubrey Widdison, age 10; Gracie Glazer, age 5; and Ricky Hall, age 10. We had tons of fun running this contest and we plan to do so again in 2016. Stay safe kids!