Written By: Nick Todorovic and Ruth Aruliah, Summer Student
Dog Owner Liability
Did you know that in Ontario there is a Dog Owners’ Liability Act that holds the owner of a dog strictly liable for damages resulting from their dog’s bite or attack? What that means is that all a person needs to do is prove that the dog bit them in order to claim damages resulting from the bite:
4 (1) A proceeding may be commenced in the Ontario Court of Justice against an owner of a dog if it is alleged that,
(a) the dog has bitten or attacked a person or domestic animal;
(b) the dog has behaved in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals; or
(c) the owner did not exercise reasonable precautions to prevent the dog from,
(i) biting or attacking a person or domestic animal, or
(ii) behaving in a manner that poses a menace to the safety of persons or domestic animals. 2005, c. 2, s. 1 (6).
Who Can be Considered a Dog Owner?
According to the Act, an owner is defined as:
1 (1) In this Act,
“owner”, when used in relation to a dog, includes a person who possesses or harbours the dog and, where the owner is a minor, the person responsible for the custody of the minor;
However, if there is more than one owner, according to the Act they are jointly and severally liable which means that an injured person can claim 100% of their damages against either of the owners so long as they can establish that each owner is at least 1% responsible.
It is also important to keep in mind of how the Court defined an owner in Wilk v. Arbour. This case involved an Ontario woman who was walking her boyfriend’s dog who had happened to have fallen into a ditch due to a seizure. The dog had ended up biting part of the woman’s thumb off and she sued her boyfriend. Though she was successful in the Superior Court, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the person who is “in physical possession and control over a dog just before it bites or attacks another person or animal” should be deemed that dog’s owner. As a result, Ms. Wilk was denied damages because she was considered the dog’s owner at the time of the incident.
How Much Will I Get for a Dog Bite?
Calculating how much a dog bite attack is worth to the injured person depends on a lot of factors including how bad the bite was, where on the body, how long was recovery and if any scars remain from the attack. If an injured person cannot work after the attack, there may be damages for loss of income and earning capacity. If the injured person needs ongoing medical treatment there may be damages for future care needs. Any medical bills that were paid by OHIP, OHIP will have a claim for that outstanding amount which is called a subrogation claim.
In Canada, awards for pain and suffering are typically determined by a jury and confined to the upper and lower range of what past cases have awarded similar types of injuries. An example of the differentiation between damages can be seen through the comparison of the Liu and Yi v. Demasi case versus the Thompson v Fisher case. In the Liu and Yi case, the Plaintiff was scarred with hypertrophic scars, anxiety and limitations in his daily activities due to trying to protect his own dog from the Defendant’s dogs attacking him. As a result, the Plaintiff was awarded over $61,559.40. In the Thompson case, where the Defendant had encouraged his dog to attack the Plaintiff, this resulted in severe injuries to his hands leaving him dependent on the help of others. Though he did not suffer from PTSD, he started to have a fear of dogs. The Plaintiff was awarded $30,000 in general damages, $5,988 in special damages and $2,792.23 in OHIP subrogation recovery.
It is important to keep in mind that though dog bites follow a strict liability rule in Ontario, it is possible the injured person may be found to be partially or entirely responsible for the attack which is called contributory negligence. In the context of dog bites, this generally involved provoking the animal to attack you which could take many forms. If the injured person was found to be contributory negligent, their award would be reduced that the percentage of fault placed on them.
How Can McLeish Orlando Help?
If you ever find yourself in a situation that could have been avoided but for the other person’s actions resulted in you or a loved one getting harmed, it is important you reach out to our team of personal injury lawyers as soon as possible. We are here to advocate for you and ensure that you get the best outcome for your claim. Contact our office for a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers to discuss what you can do next.