Depending on whether or not you have a case when your neighbor’s pitbull bit your child depends upon the dog bite statue 955.28(B) and common law. Is your neighbor an owner, keeper or harborer of the dog. Even more importantly can your neighbor or your neighbor’s home owners insurance plan pay compensation if you win your dog bite case. If the pitbull owner or keeper owns the house, and generally has assets, then you’ll be better positioned to collect when a judgment is entered against him or her. If the dog bite owner or keeper rents the house, might be more problematic. They may not have sufficient funds or assets to pay the judgment against them. You may also wish to sue the landlord as well when your neighbor’s pit bull bites your child.
A recent Ninth District, Ohio case, Brown v. Terrell deals with a situation where a child gets bit by the neighbor’s pitbull. In that case a seven-year old was playing ball outside on their driveway. The ball rolled to a space next door where the neighbor’s pit bull was chained. The pit bull broke the chain, and bit through the seven-year old’s ankle requiring surgery and implants. So we’re talking significant economic losses in terms of medical bills, and non-economic losses in terms of the psychological impact the attack had on the child.
So who do you sue? Well the lady renting the house was not collectible. In fact the rarely paid rent. She’s probably not collectibe. Apparently she had enough money to buy the pit bull but not enough money to pay the damages when that same said pit bull bit a child. Move up the chain, who owns the house? Grandma.
So Grandma is not an owner or keeper of the dog, irresponsible dog owner granddaughter is. Is Grandma a harborer? The court in this case did not find that grandma was a harborer. To be a harborer the mauling must have occurred in a common area or in an area under the possession and control of the landlord.
The court determined he attack did not happen in a common area shared by the grandma-landlord, and granddaugher-renter. That is it did not occur on a sidewalk, parking lot, foyer, or hallway necessary to the use and enjoyment of the leased property. Here the attack occurred in the yard of the rented house which the court determined was not a common area.
Furthermore the court determined that for a single-family residence situated on a normal-sized lot, there is a presumption that the tenants possess and control the entire property. The necessary control necessary to make the landlord-grandma a harborer is the power and right to admit people to the property and exclude people from it. In this case even though grandma-landlord told granddaughter-renter that she did not want a young man who fired a gun in the house to be there, this was not considered the power and right to admit people to the property. (this seems contradictory to me, but courts often make weird decision contradictory to logic). So grandma was not a harborer.
This is one case, with a specific set of facts. Every case is different, every case can go different directions. That’s why you need to hire James Malek who has the experience and knowledge to represent your child who was bit by your neighbor’s pit bull.
The question of who is responsible for the damages caused by a dog bite is a very important question. Why because even if you get a judgment against someone for a dog bite, that is you win, you may still lose if the defendant has no money. This is an important consideration when trying to collect from your neighbor who doesn’t have two cents to his name but has a dog that bit you or attacked you. If your neighbor has no money to collect from, your neighbor’s landlord may.
In Ohio if you drive a car you are legally required to have some level of car insurance. That’s not to say there still are not a bunch of folks driver uninsured (which is why you should get uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage). However there is no requirement a dog owner prove that he can cover the damages, i.e. the money owed to the plaintiff, if and when his dog attacks and bites someone before he purchases the dog. So if your neighbor wants to buy a pit bull, cane corso, or rottwelier, all he has to do is pay for the dog, poof, its his. No background checks.
So your neighbor’s pitbull, cane corso or rottweiler bites your hand causing severe damage requiring hand surgery, rehabilitation, ptsd. You are off work for a month. Your neighbor isn’t collectible. He has self-inflated net worth of billions, but only $200 to his name. What about his landlord?
Under the Ohio dog bite statute, 955.28(B) a harborer is liable for any injury, death, or loss to person or property that is caused by a dog. The landlord may be a harborer if the landlord is in possession and control of the premises where the dog lives and silently acquiesces to the dog’s presence. see Flint v. Holbrook.
The difficulty in making a landlord liability is that Ohio courts have cabined in the definition of “possession and control.” You have to define the area where the dog bite occurred, did it occur in a common area. What is a common area:
If the dog bite instead occurred in the tenant’s house, or fenced in backyard things become more difficult. In the following situations the landlord was not in possession and control of the premises where the dog bite occurred:
Fundamentally the control necessary to make a landlord a harborer for the purpose of “control” of the property is that he must have the power and the right to admit and exclude people from the rented property. Generally when you are a landlord you don’t control who enters or leaves the rented property, the renter does.
If you have been a victim of a pitbull attack contact James Malek at Malek & Malek.
There are two types of damages or money you may be awarded if you prevail under a common law dog bite case. These are compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Compensatory damages are divided into two categories. Economic damages and noneconomic damages. Economic damages include money and expenses that you have actually suffered such as medical bills and lost wages due to the dog bite injury. Noneconomic damages are damages that have no concrete, “this is how much this costs, here’s your bill” amount. These include things like pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
In Ohio there is no cap on economic damages. So if you incur $30000 in medical bills, you can be awarded $30000 in medical bills. Non-economic damages have been capped. In Ohio, you receive, which ever is greater , either $250,000 or three times your economic damages up to $350,000.
Now if the victim of the dog bite has suffered a permanent or physical deformity, or a permanent physical injury that prevents him or her from caring for himself/herself, there are NO limitations on economic damages.
Punitive damages are capped twice the value of compensatory damages.