A dog is a man’s best friend, or so the saying goes. But what if your dog hurts somebody, or what if you or someone you love is hurt by a dog? Do you know what your rights and obligations are?
The law in Ohio on the liability for the owner of a dog that does harm to another was set forth in Ohio’s first published opinion. The case was Clark v. Hite, (1816) Tappan’s Ohio Reporter at page 1. In the case, Clark sought damages for a hog killed by Hite’s two dogs. The court held, “The presumption of law is, that every man is acquainted with the habits and disposition of his domestic animals, so that to make out the fact of knowledge, nothing more is necessary to prove than the dogs were the property of the defendant and domesticated by him.” This rule of law, set down in 1816, is still the rule of law in Ohio.
If you are hurt by a dog, the owner of the dog is absolutely liable for your injuries, unless of course you were trying to harm the dog or the owner. The dog need not be vicious at the time it causes harm. For example, if a dog charges at you with its tail wagging and jumps upon you to be petted, but instead knocks you down fracturing a hip, the owner of the dog is absolutely liable for your injury. The rule of law has also been extended to protect motorists from dogs. If you are riding your motorcycle, and a dog runs in front of you causing you to crash and to be injured, the owner of the dog is absolutely responsible for your injuries, and for repairing your motorcycle. Similarly, if you accidentally hit a dog with your car, you feel terrible for hurting the dog; but the owner of the dog is absolutely responsible for the damage done to your car and any injuries that you sustain as a result. Unless you could have avoided the accident, you have no responsibility for the injury to the dog.
The rule in Clark v. Hite has been extended by law to include any person who harbors a dog is liable for injuries caused by the dog. What does that mean? In the world of landlord-tenant law, a landlord who allows a tenant to keep a dog in the apartment or on the rental property is “harboring” the dog by allowing it to live on the rental property, and is equally liable with the owner for any injury that the dog causes. If you are watching a dog for a friend, and the dog harms somebody, you are also harboring the dog, and both you and the owner of the dog are liable for injuries caused by the dog.
If your dog hurts somebody, typically your homeowners insurance or renter’s insurance will defend you. However, if you own man’s best friend, you must confirm that you have coverage for injuries caused by pets with your insurance company. Phillips Law Firm, Inc., has extensive experience in cases related to dogs. Our clients receive personal service during the representation. Whether you are the victim of a dog bite, a vehicle accident related to a dog or if your favorite hog was killed by the neighbor’s dogs just like poor Mr. Clark in 1816, the law is designed to protect you, and we are here to help you.
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