Getting sued after my dog bit a girl in the face on my driveway...

by Doug

We live in a cul-de-sac, and four families were hanging out, on and around my driveway. We had all been outside for the past 3 or 4 hours with my dog, and several other neighbors' dogs, and several children. The neighbors with the dogs all went home with their animals, and a new family came by. A father and his two year old daughter.

All was well, until the neighbor's girl must have either fallen on my dog, or yanked on one is sure because we were all within five feet. This girl had been petting and playing with my dog for about an hour prior to the attack. She was bitten on the face and received 6 stitches, 4 about an inch under her eye, and two near the corner of her mouth.

The father was not with his daughter, he was in the street in the cul-de-sac, talking with another neighbor. My wife and I were on our driveway within 5 feet of his daughter. It happened so quickly that neither of us saw exactly what happened. My neighbor is now suing me for 100% responsibility. Am I totally at fault here?

My dog has never shown aggression or anything of the sort (we have four children and he's been with us all along). In fact, my other neighbor is an elementary school teacher and just had my dog visit his assembly of 500 children! Six kids were called up to give him a treat in front of the whole school. He is that type of dog.

And I am the type of owner who would happily help with the costs because it is the right thing to do. But this neighbor wants to claim no responsibility. I believe he was negligent with his two year old, and I was negligent by not being right on this little one. However, we had all been together for the past hour at least, and it did not even cross my radar!

Any thoughts? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Getting sued after my dog bit a girl in the face on my driveway...":

Doug (Oregon):

The State of Oregon does not have a specific statute (law) addressing dog bites. Oregon dog bite cases are decided on a case by case basis, and are dependent upon proof of negligence and resulting damages.

In Oregon, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for injuries caused by a dog only if the dog owner knew, or should have known his or her dog is dangerous. In this case, there is apparently no proof you knew or should have known your dog was dangerous.

As a result, you should not be liable for the young girl’s injuries and resulting damages. Damages could include her medical bills, out of pocket expenses (for such items as medications, bandages, etc.), the parent's lost wages if they had to take off from work to care for her, and for the girl's pain and suffering.

However, if the young girl’s parents are able to find witnesses who can testify they were previously chased by the dog, the dog knocked them down, the dog chased them, or otherwise terrorized them, the you may run into a problem.

Additionally, if you were drinking alcohol at the neighborly get together, there is an argument "but for" your drinking, you would have known, or should have known that your dog may have been agitated around the young girl. If that is the case, there is an argument you may be liable for the girl’s damages.

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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