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Good evening, my name is Brandon. I'm a licensed attorney, and I'm glad to answer your question. How were the dogs able to get to each other if a fence was between them?
I apologize in advance if I ask any questions that seem unrelated to the legal issue, but it helps to understand the situation. Thank you for understanding.
Is this a shared fence? Or does one household own it exclusively?
Thank you. Has your dog ever bitten anyone or another dog in the past?
Well, here's the thing -- the dogs got into a fight through a hole in the fence. It's not clear to me how your dog would be at fault. The fence was owned by your neighbor, you had no knowledge that your dog would ever bite another dog or person, and I have to ask why your neighbor didn't patch the hole in the fence? I'm looking at this and, as described, it appears that your neighbor is solely liable for the result. I'm sorry that the dogs were injured in this, but it was the forseeable result of your neighbor not having the fence properly maintained, so what exactly is the theory for you alone having to pay the vet bills?
Dogs are dogs. They bite, they're territorial... but it's your neighbor's fence, the fight couldn't have occurred without her dog being involved, and they couldn't have made contact if your neighbor simply maintained her fence.
So perhaps there's something that you haven't told me, but I'm just not seeing your liability based on the information provided. Does that make sense?
Thank you for that clarification. Even with that information, I still can't see how total liability would fall on your shoulders. It's a little difficult to choose percentages without seeing the land, but I would be inclined to fight anything more than 50/50 liability.
Your dog never left your private property, is that correct?
Ok, I get the picture now. In which county did this occur?
One moment.. I am attempting to pull up the relevant Orange County ordinance for your review.
Orange County Ordinance 5-33(a)(1) reads: a)
Prohibition of animals at-large.
No domestic animal owner or person having charge, care, custody or control of any domestic animal shall permit, any domestic animal to run at large, upon any public property, or off the premises of the owner.
So if the dog ran off your premises, I could see that as an issue under 5-33(a)(1).
I share your concern. Are your children old enough to know to stay away from the fence?
Based on what you've said, I see at least partial liability for the vet fees. That said, I'm still seeing that the dogs weren't properly secured. If that was a child, for example, liability on your neighbor would typically be clear. So although you may have been partially responsible for the injuries to your neighbor's dog, it takes two to tango, as the saying goes.
Will she admit that you had a 50/50 agreement?
A spouse is normally not considered to be a neutral party, so the credibility of her statements would not be given the weight that would come from a neutral third party. You could argue that you had an oral agreement for settlement, but unless it has been reduced to writing, you're facing an uphill evidentiary battle.
It's the same issue with your daughter. Family just isn't credible in court.
If the association rule is in place to protect against this sort of situation, it could potentially show that her housing of the dogs was negligent in the context of your neighborhood. But if the purpose is just to keep the noise down or something else unrelated to what happened, then it wouldn't carry any weight.
It's not clear to me what the legal basis would be for better securing the fence. Liability would be clear if a child was hurt, but the animals are fenced and that seems pretty reasonable.
Before any other questions, I just wanted to check: have I been able to answer all of your questions to your satisfaction this evening?
It would be irresponsible to suggest a defense before a civil complaint has actually been filed against you, but I might suggest that she contributed to the negligence by having too many dogs behind a fence that doesn't completely confine them.
I'm sorry, but I don't understand the question?
I'm afraid that I understand what happened, but I still don't understand the question. I apologize.
Please phrase in the form of a question. Thanks :-)