My dog broke a window that injured a neighbor's cat...

by Rachel
(Huntington Beach, CA)

I was walking my dog on a leash one night and we were near my neighbors window (we live in an apartment complex that has an outdoor courtyard that all the apartment windows face into). My dog saw a cat in the windowsill and ran towards it. He hit the window and broke it (he is a big dog).

The window shattered and some of the glass fell onto the cat. The cat needed stitches and cleaning of the flesh wound, resulting in a $845 vet bill. The vet has since claimed that the cat is now fine and does not foresee any additional complications or injuries as a result of the injury.

I have already offered to pay my neighbor for the vet costs and have filed an incident report with the property management, claiming responsibility for the cost of the broken window. In exchange for payment, I am asking that my neighbor sign a release of liability to protect myself. She is refusing to sign and wants to settle in court.

What could I be liable for other than the costs I've already offered to pay? Can she sue me in court for more than the cost of the vet bills? What's my liability here? Thank you for any perspective you can give on this situation.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "My dog broke a window that injured a neighbor's cat...":

Rachel (Huntington Beach, CA):

From the facts you present, there isn't a court in California which would ask you to go any farther than you already have. From a legal and moral perspective you have done everything you should have.

In personal injury claims, human beings who are injured as the result of the negligence or willful act of another have a right to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, expenses, and for pain and suffering. There is no provision in any law in California for compensation for the pain and suffering of cats!

Anyone can file a lawsuit, at any time, anywhere, and for just about any reason. That doesn't mean they will succeed. Moreover, it's fair to say there isn't an attorney in the State of California who will agree to accept such a merit-less case.

Don't worry about whether or not the neighbor will sign a release of liability. It's irrelevant and not required by law. At worst, the neighbor could file a lawsuit in small claims court.

However, even if she does, you can be assured whichever judge is assigned to the case will dismiss it summarily without you having to say a word. And the same judge will likely be quite upset with your neighbor for having wasted your time, and the court's time with such a frivolous case.

You've offered to pay the vet bill. Put it writing and send the letter to her certified, and a copy of the letter to her by regular mail.

Saying this may upset cat owners, but in the eyes of the law, a cat is a piece of property. You've effectively damaged the property, and have offered to pay the costs of its repair. Go home and try not to worry about the matter any longer. You've suffered enough.

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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