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Legal Situation -- Personal Venting

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I was served with a court summons yesterday! I feel so sick to my stomach. My friend, Larry, owns a black lab/sharpei mix. She's a very sweet and comical animal. (Larry and his dog live 3 hours away.) When he visits me, he brings her with him. To make a long story short, last Thanksgiving weekend, she was accused of attacking someone's dog. After sorting out the timelines, we determined that the she couldn't have possibly been responsible. Even the owner of the poor dog that was attacked said he wasn't sure it was Mattie. Well, one thing led to another, and I've had Animal Control and the Sheriff's department over here investigating the dog. Both county officials agreed that it isn't likely that Mattie would display such behavior, and because the man can not positively ID her, they left well enough alone. The man called her several times demanding that my friend Larry pay the $3,000 vet bills. Larry basically told him to go to hell. I consulted with my attorney who told me then that I don't have anything to worry about. That was, until last night when a man delivered the summons to my doorstep. I am being sued for $13,000! The summons alleges that I am ultimately responsible because the dog was in my custody and that I should have known that she would damage property. First off, the attack occurred on his property not mine, secondly, her legal owner was here and she was under his control. Until last night, no one ever addressed my personally in any settlement offers. All legal correspondence has been addressed and handled by Larry. I think it really sucks that I wasn't afforded the opportunity earlier on to rectify this situation. TO be suddenly pounced on with a lawsuit without first trying to settle something out of court is unfair. I hope my attorney agrees with my assessment of this and can make this go away for me. In the meantime, I can't help but worry that my education fund is going to be depleted. I have just enough money to finish my BS degree. I have end up having to give this man money, I'll have to quit school. I didn't sleep a wink last night! I am a nervous wreck.
post #2 of 19
You posted "After sorting out the timelines, we determined that the she couldn't have possibly been responsible. Even the owner of the poor dog that was attacked said he wasn't sure it was Mattie. Well, one thing led to another, and I've had Animal Control and the Sheriff's department over here investigating the dog. Both county officials agreed that it isn't likely that Mattie would display such behavior, and because the man can not positively ID her, they left well enough alone. "
Should be enough said, they have to prove the dog did it. but because you are being accused I like Tybalt's idea.
post #3 of 19
Having watched a lot of Judge Judy eps, my s/o loves court shows, I think it's in your favor. (Hoping I'm right!) If they can't prove it was your friend's dog, they don't have a case.

It seems like a long time to wait, too. That's 7 or 8 months ago, why didn't they file a suit right away? It sounds like the people are just looking for money. I agree with Tybalt, file a countersuit.

If you do have to pay out money, you could always look into student loans for the rest of your school. But I think it should go ok for you.
post #4 of 19
I know that you mentioned having a lawyer, but there is a service over the Internet that I have used in the past where you can get free legal advice from attorneys all over. You have to be careful how you word your request, but if you do it right, you gets lots of opinions from lawyers.

Law Guru's

Just a tip, give no names, or locations other than state you are in.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your replies. I just spoke with my attorney. He said he didn't know of any legal basis on which I could be held responsible for an animal that is a guest in my home, when the animal's owner was present and in control of said animal. I asked my attorney how we can make this thing go away. He said that he didn't think that a court would allow the suit against me to happen. He also said that I could contact my homeowners insurance and they would assign counsel. I asked him to contact the other attorney and find out what legal basis they are using to substantiate this claim, and to remind them that I was not afforded at any time to settle this matter out of court. If I must fight this charge, then I would have turn it over to my insurance company and allow them to settle it. If my attorney settles for me, then I can not make a claim on my homeowner's. So, I hope this will just go away in the next couple of days, and I can finally breathe again.
post #6 of 19
I agree with Tybalt, countersue and be sure to get the fees in it.
What a dirtbag for coming after you. That's very bad Karma for him.
He's coming back as a dung beetle!
post #7 of 19
I would have been out there these past few months to find the dog responsible! Did they do a door to door search? Was his dog in a fenced ares? They may have waited thie long just to get the paperwork done and subpenoas together. Geting sued cannot happen the next day. It also sounds like it may be going to small claimes court and your lawyer cannot be present. Just keep your chin up and let the judge deside, they see these cases all the time and are good at spotting a fraud!
post #8 of 19
Thread Starter 
The plaintiff as far as I know did not do a "door-to-door" search for other dogs fitting Mattie's description. There are other dogs in that neighborhood that do fit the description, and I was savvy enough to get these dogs on videotape. I have good evidence, and everything stands in my favor, but I'm not willing to take the chance with a trial. You just don't know about these things. This is an actual trial, not small claims. In Michigan small claims is less than $3000. This suit is for $13,000. Of that $13,000, $3100 is for vet bills, and the rest is for damages, fees, and etc. I'll tell you, after the first Animal Control Officer showed up and basically laughed at the complaint citing the obvious that Mattie is not a vicious dog, I advised my friend to take his dog to the vet and have her thoroughly examined for evidence of a fight. He did, and the vet found nothing. The Sheriff's Deputy did not cite me. While the dupty was here, he even called the plaintiff who told him first hand that he could not positively identify the dog. The man is basing his entire claim on a 13 year old boy the neighborhood parents call "Eddie Haskell."

My attorney called back a few moments ago. He said the other attorney put me on the suit because the dog owner is not handling the situation to their satisfaction. Apparently the dog owner got snippy with the other attorney, so what it basically amounts to is that I'm being sued for my friend's rude behavior during a telephone call I have no knowledge of. Now that I've been named as a co-defendent, I must settle this on both my behalf and my friend's behalf. I can't just settle my end and be done with it. My attorney said that I can be named in the suit because the accused dog had to leave my property to run 1/2 mile down the road to the development, seek out this man's Jack Russel Terrier, attack it and then run back. Yah Right! The pisser is that I know darn well this dog did not attack that Russell. The owner of the of the terrier witnessed the attack, he can't not positively identify the dog. The owner also told me that his dog was the aggressor in the fight. His dog got out and charged after the black dog. The man all but admitted that the black dog was acting in self-defense. That man obviously did not have control of his animal either. He received a significant emotional experience, now he wants someone to pay for his emotional experience. As it turns out, I'm that someone.

So now, I'm writing a statement for my insurance company, and I'll drive it over there as soon as it is finished. They will assign a lawyer to handle the situation and except for a quick interview with a claims adjuster, I should be done with this.

Now ... I'm troubled with whether I should maintain this friendship or not.
post #9 of 19
Wow! It sounds like these people are grasping at straws, trying to get money for this incident. Do the police officers have it in writing that this guy couldn't even identify the attacking dog? If they do, then I don't see how they even have a case. In fact the case probably will be laughed out of court by the judge. I mean, if the guy can't PROVE beyond a shadow of a doubt that your friends dog was the attacker, then how can they sue you or your friend? It's absolutely crazy.

I would talk to my friend if I were you. I don't think I'd end a friendship with him, over this. He may not have had any idea they would come back on you, because he got snippy with those people's attorney. It sounds like these people are going after you out of revenge, but it sounds to me like they don't have ANY grounds to go after either you or your friend.
post #10 of 19
The person suing you has the burden of proof. They must prove it was your friends dog. Did your friend let the dog loose while it was at your home? most states have leash laws so if his dog was running free, and the dog did any damage to person or property the owner would be liable.
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Merlot said:

That's very bad Karma for him. He's coming back as dung beetle!
You're too funny! I never thought as some coming back as a dung beetle. However, I think even life as a dung beetle is too good for him.

Though the thought of that man rolling around in dung just cracks me up! Thanks for the comic relief. I needed it so badly.
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
Yes, the officials involved have both documented their beliefs and closed their respective investigations.

I think you're right, this guy is grasping at straws. The reason for suing both of us is because the more pockets they can stick their hands into, the more likely they are to get a higher settlement. However, to say or not say how a judge is going to settle things is not something I care to speculate. I need this to be done and over with. I have enough things going on in my life that cause me stress, I certainly don't need to add to the list. I've delivered my statement and a copy of the summons to my insurance representative, so now I'm basically through with it. I called my friend and told him he needs to do the same thing and that he is not to come back here until he has his end of this situation tightly wrapped.

I know his dog didn't attack the other dog, and it frustrates me that she's accused of doing so. This dog was raised with cats, she's wonderful around my 4 cats, she's great with kids, and she loves other dogs. I hate to be this way, but I'm just not going to allow anyone to bring their dogs to my home anymore. My step-daughter brings her sweetheart Rottie over, my friend brings her choc. lab over. No more dogs allowed in this house!
post #13 of 19
What a nightmare! Hope it's resolved quickly, in your favor!
post #14 of 19
That sounds soooo frustrating. It doesn't sound like this guy is going to get away with suing you though. I hope it works out in your favour too.
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
I guess, in a way, it did work in my favor. I turned it over to my homeowner's insurance. They hire an attorney and negotiate a settlement. I won't have to pay any out-of-pocket expenses. So for that reason only it worked in my favor. However, in a way I feel like turning it over to the insurance company was an acceptance of responsibility for the incident. And I am not responsible for what happened to that man's dog.
post #16 of 19
So your insurance will just settle it, not fight it? I would kind of hope that they would fight it so this idiot doesn't get anything. I'm sorry his dog was attacked, but it's wrong for him to go after someone who's obviously innocent just because he can't find the dog that actually did it!
post #17 of 19
Thread Starter 
I'm assuming my insurance company will settle. I provided them a detailed statement of the events. They know that I have witnesses, photos, videotapes, veterinary records, and animal control and sheriff records that are all in my favor.

I tell ya, if it weren't for the expense of paying an attorney, I would fight this because I think my evidence certainly proves Mattie's innocence. This guy has a 13 year old neighbor kid (who, by the way, owns a black dog) as a witness. Personally, I think the kid's dog attacked the man's dog, and the kid blamed it on Mattie to protect his own dog. But I can't say that for sure. A woman in that subdivision told me that young girl was mauled by a black chow in December. I was in Florida at the time, and Mattie was with her owner 3 hours away from the scene of the attack.

Here's a picture of Mattie.
post #18 of 19
Oh my what a difficult situation! No wonder you're stressed. But to be honest, I don't think the guy has a leg to stand on. He has to prove it to the point the judge has absolutely no doubt it was that dog. And the dog wasn't even yours! I think you'll be fine and everything will work out in your favor. I'll be very anxious to hear how this turns out.
post #19 of 19
Boy, I stand with those who think you should file a countersuit. What a jerk! I would tend to think that your homeowner's will not just hand over cash without proof of the claim.

I am having trouble on a recent minor car accident I was involved in. After the fact, the driver denied doing any damage to my car, and now his insurance company will not pay me the claim (a measly $400) without a statement from a witness supporting my story.
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