Who is responsible for the injury caused by the dog? 9 Answers as of August 22, 2013

John, an accountant, and Jane, a businesswoman, are husband and wife. They have come to you to seek legal advice of the following: While leaving the house to go to buy something at a nearby shop, John carelessly left his front gate unlocked. As a result, his fully grown German Sheppard dog managed to get out of the compound of his house and bit a passing stranger, Albert, on the leg. Albert was in no way provoking the dog; he was just passing the fence of John and Jane's house when the incident occurred. He intends to sue John and Jane for his injuries. Advise John.

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Law Offices of Ronald A. Steinberg & Associates | Ronald A. Steinberg, BA, MA, JD
Which law school are you attending? This is a test from a tort class. John is at fault. He left the gate open and the dog got out. Liability lies because John failed to restrain his dog. PERIOD. John should put his head between his knees and kiss his butt goodbye. First, however, he should notify his homeowner's insurance of the incident and the claim. Then he should either keep the dog on a leash or give it to Joe, his brother who owns a farm 200 miles away. Or else, he should donate the dog to the University of Michigan Medical or Dental School so that they can experiment on it.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 8/22/2013
David F. Stoddard
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
Assuming they are in SC, the owner of the dog is liable for the injury, regardless of negligence. If they are joint owners, they are jointly and severally liable ("google joint and several liability if you need to explain this"). If the husband is the owner (hard to prove as dogs aren't titled the way cars and real estate are), the wife would have no liability. If the Wife is the owner, or co-owner, she can file a third party claim against the husband based on his negligence, basically pleading that if she is liable as the dog's owner, then he is liable, and should indemnify her, based on his negligence in leaving the gate open. He Can argue in his defense that he had no duty (not owning the dog) to see to it that the fence was secured. She can argue that he regularly took on that job, and volunteering to do this job, had a duty to exercise reasonable care in this regard. Ultimately, if they have homeowners insurance, I would advise them to let their insurer handle the claim. Good luck on your test.
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Replied: 8/20/2013
Padove Law | Burton A. Padove
John should contact his homeowner's insurer.
Answer Applies to: Indiana
Replied: 8/20/2013
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A.
Paul Whitfield and Associates P.A. | Paul L. Whitfield
Is this law school or bar exam? You sue the person whose negligence caused your injury, in this case the owner of the dog.
Answer Applies to: North Carolina
Replied: 8/19/2013
John Russo | John Russo
We can't give legal advice, all I will tell you is that there is a tort in your fact pattern.
Answer Applies to: Rhode Island
Replied: 8/19/2013
    Blaske & Blaske, P.L.C.
    Blaske & Blaske, P.L.C. | John F. Turck IV
    Is this a law school exam?
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/19/2013
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A.
    Kelaher Law Offices, P.A. | James P Kelaher
    Turn the matter over to your homeowner's insurance company and they should take care of it for you.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/19/2013
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo
    Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
    The owner of the dog is liable for all injuries sustained. John needs to turn the matter into his homeowner's insurance if he has it as his policy should cover such incidents. Alternatively, John can try to resolve the matter on his own so as not to have a claim on his insurance. In that event, John should offer to pay the medical bills. John might check with his insurance agent what the effect would be on his premiums if he makes such a claim. For example, if you are in a car accident and are at fault, it will typically result in a 25% increase in premiums for 4 years. So you can figure out what that means over the 4 year period and determine whether you are better off paying yourself or submitting it to your insurance carrier. I do not know what the increase in a homeowner's premium would be for making a dog bite claim. Your agent should know. Ask him hypothetically and don't make an official report until you assess what the long term cost would be. Your insurance policy does require, however, prompt reporting of the incident. So act quickly.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/19/2013
    The Law Offices of Tres A. Porter | Tres A. Porter
    This sounds like a law school or state bar exam question. However, John should seek the advice of a personal injury or insurance defense atty in his area immediately. Generally speaking, owners of dogs are strictly liable for damages caused by bites, particularly when the bite occurs on property not owned by the dog owner and the attack is unprovoked which are both potential exclusions if the attack occurred on the dog owners property or the bite was provoked. Do both spouses own the dog? Do both spouses own the house? Are they potentially able to file for bankruptcy? How severe are the victim's injuries? Do they have homeowner's insurance and if so are there any exclusions for dogs?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/19/2013
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