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Dog Bite Liability? Animal Injury, Dog Bite

Discussion in 'Accidents, Injuries, Negligence' started by jmark150, Mar 17, 2004.

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  1. jmark150

    jmark150 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I am being sued by the neighbor of my ex-wife, because her dog bit him while he was in her yard feeding the dog at her request. Since I had filed for divorce and moved out of the house (two years prior to the bite), I had relinquished ownership of the dog to my ex-wife and have had no further contact with or control over the dog. My ex-wife has falsely told the neighbor and her insurance company that I am still co-owner of the dog. I believe she did this out of anger over our divorce. I am forced to represent myself, while her homeowner's insurance company is representing her. I want to file a countersuit, against her for either harassment or intent to cause emotional distress. Does anyone know of any similar cases I could refer to? Should I countersue her insurance company to indemnify me in this suit?
     
  2. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    To begin, you should look up the state dog law to see if there is any liability. I'm missing something here -- why and how can your ex-wife and insurance company claim that you should be responsible for a dog you don't own. Do they have some paperwork which they are trying to pin on you claiming that you own the dog? It would be strange for them to try because you could countersue for 'indemnification' as she had control of the dog and you want reimbursement for her and it would seem you'd get it. You could probably ask for punitive damages if there is no case.

    However, I might be missing many critical facts as it is highly unlikely the insurance company would waste time and money on a case where there is no nexus to you.

     
  3. jmark150

    jmark150 Law Topic Starter New Member

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    We are in California, which has strict liability against the "owner" for a dog bite. My contention is that I relinquished ownership upon the divorce and moving out of the residence in 2001 (two years prior to the bite). She is using the original AKC registration from 1998 to indicate I am still co-owner, but like I said, she is doing all of this out of anger over the divorce and child custody settlement which was fairly favorable to me. Have I mentioned that she is extremely vindictive. I thank God the divorce has been finalized at least, but that is another story. Her insurance company says that since I didn't change the AKC registration, I am still co-owner. Still, I have had absolutely no contact with or control over the dog since I moved out. The lawsuit is being brought by the neighbor's personal injury attorney. I told the attorney, in writing, what my ex-wife was doing and why, but they refuse to drop me from the suit. Would I sue both her and her insurance company for indemnification? I still feel like there is a huge harassment issue.
     
  4. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    Rereading this case I now understand what is probably going on -- the neighbor is suing everyone she can who may have money. Since you are the registered owner of the animal, you may be technically on the hook (it's the same as if someone borrowed a car you gave to your brother but never signed over title nor changed the registration.) She can state that you are the legal co-owner of the dog unless there is some law regarding ownership of an domestic animal in CA that would remove you as owner. Do you have any proof that she is the owner of the dog? Settlement papers, etc.? Yes, this is incredibly annoying but I'm not sure now that this is so far out of bounds unless she didn't register the dog in her own name and you might be able to countersue. Exactly what you will get in damages is uncertain and may not be much or worth the effort.

    At this point it seems that your wife and her attorney cannot remove you from suit -- only the plaintiff or the court can. Ultimately, you would have to answer the court and I would argue that the dog is not yours and that your wife did not file the appropriate paperwork, thus you are not a party to this lawsuit. Hopefully that would remove you from the suit although you would also want to move the court to make her responsible for the entire amount of damages since ultimately you might have ownership by a technicality although your wife would be the one responsible for causing 100% of the damages. How this is accomplished depends upon the court and you will want to find this out -- but first try to remove yourself from the case. That would be easier.

     

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