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zack15151

Dog vs Dog liability

12 posts in this topic

Hey guys I have an interesting situation and I'm not sure how to move forward or what I'm even liable for.

 

This is my situation. A week ago my dog attacked another dog in my apartment complex. She was on a leash but is a 120lb German Shepard and literally broke her collar. I pulled her off the other dog and took the owner and her dog to an emergency vet up the street. I paid $2000 for the dog to go into surgery and the dog pulled through. The vet called me later that day and stated that the dogs injuries were repaired and he would like to see the dog the following day. He stated that the owner was concerned about the state of the dog and it "might not be a bad idea for the dog to be watched overnight". I asked him to have the owner contact me as she had made no attempt to contact me all day. Later the same day the emergency vet called me and stated it would be $3000 to monitor the dog overnight. I refused to pay and attempted to contact the owner again to let her know I could not afford to pay that when her dog was "in stable condition".  She never attempted to contact me again. Since then I received a certified letter from this woman's attorney attempting to push me to pay the $3000 overnight fee with the threat of small claims court. 

 

 

A few bullet points:

 

Animal control was contacted, I had to get rid of the dog but was not issued a citation. My dog was a rescue with no history of violence or indication of violence. 

I paid for the dogs surgery and follow up visit the next day, a sum of $2000.

The owner made no effort to contact me and is now threatening small claims court.

I was injured by her dog when I attempted to help them to the vet. I was off work for two weeks with stitches in my hand from her dog biting me after the altercation between our dogs.

The woman's dog is a mixed breed dog that is 8 years old. Not a purebred dog or anything of that sort.

My state is arizona. 

 

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You didn't ask a question, so I'm not really sure what sort of response you're seeking.  As far as I can tell, the dog that your dog attacked was unattended.  Given your statement that your dog had "no history of violence [that you knew of] or indication of violence," I'm skeptical you had or have any liability at all.  I suggest you read this lawyer's article about Arizona's dog bite laws.

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14 minutes ago, pg1067 said:

You didn't ask a question, so I'm not really sure what sort of response you're seeking.  As far as I can tell, the dog that your dog attacked was unattended.  Given your statement that your dog had "no history of violence [that you knew of] or indication of violence," I'm skeptical you had or have any liability at all.  I suggest you read this lawyer's article about Arizona's dog bite laws.

I apologize, I'm wondering if i can be held liable for more than her dog is worth? I know some states have varying laws on this and I cant seem to find a definite answer for arizona. As I understand it dogs are property and I can only be held liable for the value of her property? I'm not trying to be rude, I paid for her dog to go to surgery and feel horrible about what happened. Her lawyer demands I pay the $3000 in further vet bills under the threat of small claims court.  She was with her dog walking it in our apartment community on a leash. 

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You can always go to small claims court and take your chances. Frankly, I'd pay it. The vet recommended the animal stay overnight and that is what happened. None of it would be necessary had you controlled your dog. Why should she be out $3K? If your dog was a rescue, you have no idea what it might have done in the past. Regardless, in this case it was violent. I'm sure if the shoe was on the other foot you wouldnt be happy about a $3K vet bill because someone else's dog was violent and inadequately restrained.

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9 minutes ago, ElleMD said:

You can always go to small claims court and take your chances. Frankly, I'd pay it. The vet recommended the animal stay overnight and that is what happened. None of it would be necessary had you controlled your dog. Why should she be out $3K? If your dog was a rescue, you have no idea what it might have done in the past. Regardless, in this case it was violent. I'm sure if the shoe was on the other foot you wouldnt be happy about a $3K vet bill because someone else's dog was violent and inadequately restrained.

I appreciate your response but I'm really just seeking legal liability not morality.

 

1. It was recommended the dog stay after the owner felt uncomfortable taking the dog home. The dog was stable after surgery and the vet simply wanted to follow up the next day. It was not medically necessary it was even stated by the vet that "it wouldnt be a bad idea". If someone else is footing the bill of course it isnt a bad idea.

2. The dog was surrendered by her owners to the rescue and had no prior citations with animal control.

3. Are dogs not pets, and pets are considered property? As I understand it you are limited to the value of the pet. Maybe I'm completely off base with this.

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Pets are property and had the animal been killed by yours, you are correct that you would only be legally liable for the total value of the animal. However, in this cases, there are damages and those aren't necessarily capped at the value of the property. You are welcome to argue in small claims court that you don't think their pet was worth that much (assuming you know the value of the animal) or that the additional cost wasn't really necessary. It will be up to judge whether or not they buy those arguments and we can not predict how the judge will rule.

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37 minutes ago, ElleMD said:

Pets are property and had the animal been killed by yours, you are correct that you would only be legally liable for the total value of the animal. However, in this cases, there are damages and those aren't necessarily capped at the value of the property. You are welcome to argue in small claims court that you don't think their pet was worth that much (assuming you know the value of the animal) or that the additional cost wasn't really necessary. It will be up to judge whether or not they buy those arguments and we can not predict how the judge will rule.

That doesn't quite make sense. I damage someone's car and the repair exceeds the value of the car, I don't pay for the full value of the repair, I pay for the value of the car. I guess if it comes to that I'll counter for two weeks of lost wages which is far more than $3000. I'd rather avoid all of this if possible but I guess I don't have a choice.

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If you have insurance and the car isn't repaired, the most insurance will pay is the value of the car. If the person opts to repair the car, you owe the cost of the repairs. You are going to have a very difficult time making an argument that any judge will buy that your neighbor owes you for your lost work time for an injury you sustained only because your do attacked theirs, but nothing stops you from trying.

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5 minutes ago, ElleMD said:

If you have insurance and the car isn't repaired, the most insurance will pay is the value of the car. If the person opts to repair the car, you owe the cost of the repairs. You are going to have a very difficult time making an argument that any judge will buy that your neighbor owes you for your lost work time for an injury you sustained only because your do attacked theirs, but nothing stops you from trying.

 

Identical circumstances, completely different responses. Odd. And yes, the injuries I sustained were from her dog while trying to help them to the vet. I have it well documented with animal control and have copies of dictated notes from my ER visit. 

 

 

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1 - You have no sustainable claim against the other dog owner for your injuries because you wouldn't have been injured in the first place had your dog not gotten loose and injured the other dog. The injured dog was in distress and nobody but you is responsible for the results of that distress.

 

2 - Your comparison of an automobile to an animal is ridiculous and doesn't even deserve comment.

 

3 - Comparing an incident in South Carolina to an incident in Arizona isn't valid so that doesn't bear discussion.

 

4 - On the plus side the Arizona strict liability statute applies to a dog biting a person. It doesn't apply to a dog biting another dog. What does apply is common law negligence which is where you might have a defense to any liability at all. I don't think that failure to control your dog is the issue. You wrote that the collar broke. The negligence question that has to be answered is whether you knew, or should have known, that the collar wasn't sufficient to hold a 125 lb German Shepherd. In court, it's anybody's guess how that will go.

 

Do you have renters insurance?

 

If you do, turn this over to your insurance company.

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2 hours ago, zack15151 said:

I'm wondering if i can be held liable for more than her dog is worth?

 

Unlikely -- especially since liability appears tenuous (at best) to begin with.

 

 

2 hours ago, zack15151 said:

As I understand it dogs are property and I can only be held liable for the value of her property?

 

That is generally how it works for cases involving damage to property.  Determining whether Arizona courts would follow such a rule in a case like this would require researching case law.

 

 

2 hours ago, zack15151 said:

I paid for her dog to go to surgery and feel horrible about what happened. Her lawyer demands I pay the $3000 in further vet bills under the threat of small claims court.

 

The only possible basis I can see for which you might be liable for this is if something you did after the injury needlessly created this debt.  Given your description of the events, that doesn't appear to be the case, but who knows what story the other dog's owner told his lawyer?

 

Additional comments:

 

1. I agree that the comparison of a dog with a car is apt.  Both are property, and I and other regulars here have posted many times that pets "are property, no different than a toaster, a TV set or a car." (indeed, I wrote exactly that in the six month old thread to which you provided a link, and the other lawyer who responded in that thread pointed out that the applicable "law indicates that the damages for killing or injuring a pet is limited to the replacement value of the animal").  As noted, because pets are living things to which their owners are emotionally attached, it's not inconceivable that a court might depart from the normal constructs applicable to a property damage case.  However, until someone cites an Arizona case in which Dog A mauled (but did not kill) Dog B and the owner of Dog B was awarded judgment against the owner of Dog A in an amount exceeding Dog B's fair market value, you are probably on solid ground arguing that the normal constructs should apply.

 

2. The prior thread to which you linked is precisely on point.  The only real difference is that, in that case, the owner of the injured pet was present when the attack occurred.  That the owner of the dog attacked by your dog was not present makes his case weaker in some respects.  That the prior incident occurred in a different state isn't a meaningful distinction unless someone can point to statutory or case law that demonstrates that the two states' laws are not similar on this subject.

 

3. I agree that this is primarily an issue of negligence.  That your dog broke the leash suggests you might have been negligent, but it is not a necessary conclusion.

 

4. I agree that you should tender this matter to your renter's insurance carrier if you have such coverage (and if you don't, you now have another reason why you should buy it).

 

5. I agree that you have no viable claim for your own injuries.

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2 hours ago, pg1067 said:

However, until someone cites an Arizona case in which Dog A mauled (but did not kill) Dog B and the owner of Dog B was awarded judgment against the owner of Dog A in an amount exceeding Dog B's fair market value, you are probably on solid ground arguing that the normal constructs should apply.

 

I found an Arizona Court of Appeals decision from which we might conclude that the veterinary costs may be limited to the value of the dog as property.

 

Kaufman v. Langhofer (2009) involved a veterinary malpractice action by Kaufman against Langhofer in which Kaufman sought to recover damages for the wrongful death of his macaw.

 

(Stop laughing. No Monty Python parrot jokes. I have a serious point to make here.)


 

Quote

 

Kaufman sought a variety of "special damages," as follows:

(a) the special damages of severe emotional distress and/or emotional pain and suffering;

(b) the special damages of emotional distress and/or emotional pain and suffering;

(c) the special damages of loss of companionship;

(d) the special damages of loss of society;

(e) the special damages of the loss of Salty;

(f) her fair market value for her species and age;

(g) veterinary medical expenses made in his effort to provide her with that degree of veterinary care, skill and learning expected of a reasonable, prudent veterinarian, acting in the same or similar circumstances;

 

 

With regard to (a) through (f) the court ruled:
 

Quote

 


We hold such damages are not recoverable under Arizona law.

 

 

The appellate court did not address (f) and (g) but noted (referring to the trial court):

 

Quote

The court's ruling did not eliminate, however, Kaufman's special damage claims (f) through (h), that is, his claims for Salty's fair market value, veterinary expenses and "other pecuniary loss and damages at law." Nevertheless, without objection by Kaufman, the court instructed the jury his damages were "limited to the diminished or lost value, if any, of his bird. In determining reasonable compensation for property lost or destroyed, that amount is the fair market value of such property at the time of its loss or destruction."

 

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=13797571400049757576&q=veterinary+costs+&hl=en&as_sdt=4,3

 

From that, might we conclude that an Arizona trial court would not award $5000 worth of veterinary costs to the plaintiff for treating a pet that might cost a hundred or so to replace?

 

 

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