Bullying a woman with a biting dog...

by Rebecca
(Palo Alto, CA, USA)

On December 24th 2009, I was walking on a public road in the mountains in Oregon (a fire road) when I encountered a man with two dogs. The large dog was not on a leash, but the small dog was on a leash.

As the big dog bounded up to me, the man said "The big one isn't the problem, it's the little dog that will bite." But then, after I had passed the man, and was at least 12 feet away, he allowed the dog on the leash to get close enough to me to bite my left leg just above the ankle.

I turned around and said to the man, "your dog just bit me!" He kept walking, saying nothing. I was not medically diagnosed, but I immediately showed several family members the wound, and I still have a scar to prove it.

On May 30th 2010, I encountered the man on the same road with the same two dogs. Again, the small one was on a leash, and the large one was not.

This time I warned the man explicitly: "Keep your dog close to you, he bit me last time." Instead he allowed the dog to get closer and closer to me as I backed up, until I fell off the road, down the mountain. He kept walking, likely enjoying the scene.

I now have a bruise and several scratches from the fall. Additionally, in the past few days I have developed a nasty case of poison oak stemming from the fall.

Needless to say, both of these encounters were fairly traumatizing. This man has a reputation for hating women and generally giving people a hard time when they walk by his property, even though the road is public.

That said, given that the injuries are relatively minor, can anything reasonably be done? Thanks!

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Bullying a Woman with a Biting Dog...":

Rebecca (Palo Alto, CA, USA):

This is such an unfortunate situation where you almost wish rudeness could be against the law... but alas it is not. This man's conduct is no doubt rude and there may even be a gender specific motive, however this is also a situation where you may fall short in the "causation" and "damages" department.

In negligence cases where a person's behavior falls short of ordinary care and duty that a reasonably prudent person would exercise, you must prove four elements to be successful:

1. Duty: You must prove that a person owed you a duty of due care. I think it would be reasonable to argue that a man with a dog known to bite owes those in his proximity the duty to keep the menacing dog away.

2. Breach: You must prove that the duty was breached. Clearly here, he breached his duty to you because you were actually bitten.

3. Causation: Your injuries must be caused by the breach. In the first scenario, you were bitten which is a direct cause. In the second situation, however it may be a stretch to assume that you fell down the mountain as a result of the dog.

To play devil's advocate, one might argue that you had other reasonable alternatives to get away from the man and his dog and that you were partially responsible for the fall.

4. The last element is Damages. In this regard, your case might be weak as well. Here, you must prove that you were damaged, but the analysis does not stop there; Damages must be quantified with some dollar figure.

In your case, that figure would be your medical bills and it sounds as though you may not have gone to a doctor. Without medical bills as a base line, it is very easy for the other side to argue no damage at all.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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