Can my neighbor sue me in small claimsbecause my cat bit her?

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Can my neighbor sue me in small claimsbecause my cat bit her?

My neighbor is suing me in small claims for emergency room bills after my cat supposedly bit her when she got into her garage. I do not believe that I am liable for several reasons: (1) My cat has never bitten anyone before; (2) My neighbor told 2 people that she threw dirt iton the cats face to try and get her to leave (this seems like provocation); and (3) It is common knowledge that cats are unpredictable when handled by strangers (she did not call animal control to remove the cat). The bite did not require stitches; it was very small. Does she have a case? And if so, is small claims the correct place?

Asked on December 20, 2010 under Personal Injury, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, point (1) is mostly irrevelant--every animal owner can say that when their animal first bites. It helps a little, but as discussed below, the fact that the cat was in her home mitigates the value of it--the cat was in entirely the wrong place. Point 3 doesn't help you too much, since the cat should not have been in her garage and it's not unreasonable to try to "shoo" out a housecat in the wrong place. Point 2 may help you defend if sued, by showing that the neighbor was actually responsible, BUT it's not a sure winning argument and, again, your cat should not have been in her garage--it is your responsibility to control your animals.

As to your other questions: if bit by an animal and injured, the injured person may sue; and smalll claims is the right place for small suits (those within the jurisdictional limits of the court).

Since you cat injured her and your cat was in her home when that happened, there is a good chance you'd  be liable: you may wish to consider settlement.


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