What Oregon Law Says About the Rights of Victims Mauled by Aggressive Dogs

Many people think Oregon follows a “one bite” free rule before imposing owner liability in a dog attack case. That’s untrue; Oregon law generally holds dog owners strictly liable for attack injuries if the dog(s) had aggressive tendencies or a history of violence. That may mean a history of aggressive actions (like launching or attempted attacks.) Strict liability also can apply if the dog’s breed is one “that is known to be aggressive or dangerous.” Even if the dog wasn’t an aggressive breed and even if the dog lacked a history of violence, you still can hold the owner accountable if the owner failed to reasonably control his/her dog. After you’ve endured major injuries in an animal bite case, be sure to consult a knowledgeable Oregon lawyer who is experienced in dog attack matters to discuss your legal rights and options.

Northeast Portland was the site of one such dog attack in December. There, two Great Dane-Mastiff mix dogs mauled a 6-year-old boy to death inside the dog owner’s home.

In this local case, the dog owner was also the homeowner. However, in many cases, the dogs that attack belong to renters. That was the circumstance in a recent California case where two pit bulls attacked a woman in Los Angeles County. A state court of appeal said that, under California law, a dog attack victim can hold a landlord liable if the victim proves that the landlord had “actual knowledge of the tenacious dog’s vicious nature.”

What these cases can tell you is this: if you’re seriously hurt (or a loved one is killed) by a dog, you may have the ability to hold the owner and others accountable for their failures.

Suing a Dog Owner

ORS Section 31.360 says the victim is not required to prove that “the owner of the dog could foresee that the dog would cause the injury” to succeed in a lawsuit. Similarly, the law forbids an owner from arguing as a defense that he/she “could not foresee that the dog would cause the injury.”

Section 31.360 only covers dog attack lawsuits where the victim seeks economic damages. Section 31.705 states that economic damages cover “objectively verifiable” harm like “medical, hospital, nursing and rehabilitative services and other health care services, burial and memorial expenses, loss of income and past and future impairment of earning capacity, reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for substitute domestic services, [and] recurring loss to an estate,” among other things. Section 31.360 does not cover non-economic harm, which is “subjective, non-monetary losses” like “pain, mental suffering, emotional distress, humiliation, injury to reputation, loss of care…, companionship and… consortium, inconvenience and interference with normal and usual activities apart from gainful employment.”

Suing Third Parties (Such as Landlords)

When your case involves potential culpability by a third party, such as a landlord, the proof required is different. A pair of Oregon court cases offer some important pieces of knowledge. In 1993, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that a landlord could be liable even if the dog attack occurred off the landlord’s premises if the victim proves that the landlord knew about or consented to the tenant’s possession of violent dogs and the landlord knew or should have known that allowing the tenant to keep the dogs would “unavoidably involve an unreasonable risk of harm to persons off the rental property.”

A 2008 Court of Appeals case pointed out that the burden of proof potentially is lower if the potentially liable party is both the owner’s landlord and the victim’s landlord. (The law imposes upon landlords a greater duty of care to their tenants than they do an ordinary woman or “man on the street.”

Dogs can be wonderful companions. However, when not properly trained and restrained, dogs can be incredibly dangerous. If you’ve been hurt (or you’ve lost a loved one) in a dog attack, you may be entitled to hold accountable those who had an obligation to control the dog but failed to meet their responsibilities. As you do so, the knowledgeable Oregon attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are here to help. Our team is experienced in severe dog attacks and can provide you with essential advice and advocacy from the earliest stages of investigation and evidence collection all the way to resolution. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your consultation.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
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