If my cat fell out of a window in our apartment because it did not have a screen on it, can I sue my landlord for the vet bills?

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If my cat fell out of a window in our apartment because it did not have a screen on it, can I sue my landlord for the vet bills?

We have never had a screen in and our landlord said that he doesn’t replace those because they are too expensive. However, in my state all windows are required to have screens. Can I sue him for the $700 in vet bills?

Asked on June 17, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can try as there is some potential for success, but you must overcome a couple of challenges.  The first is that you have to show the landlord owed a duty of care to your pet.  Often, the only duty of care is owed to the tenant.  The second challenge, is to show that even if he did have a duty of care, was it unreasonable violation of duty of care.  The third challenge, is to show that the breach of his duty of care is a direct reason for the injuries.  The landlord could successfully argue that you had a partial duty, at least, as the owner of the pet to keep the window completely closed if you knew there was a chance your pet would get close to the window.  If you do sue, I would suggest pursuing this in small claims court.  I don't think that suing with an attorney would be very cost effective.  However, you may still want to do a consultation with an attorney that routinely handles rental matters to give you some pointers on how to best word your pleadings, thereby increasing your chances of success.

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

You can sue your landlord for negligence.  Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable landlord would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).

Since your state requires all windows to have screens, the landlord's violation of that statute establishes negligence.

Your damages (the amount of compensation you are seeking in your lawsuit) would be the vet bills for your cat's injuries.

You may be able to file your lawsuit in Small Claims Court.  Your damages should also include the court filing fee and process server fee.


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