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.