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Oregon Dog Attacks: Who is Liable for My Dog Bite?

Dangerous dogLast week an extremely brutal dog attack occurred in SE Portland, leaving two women with multiple punctures and tear wounds. Local news reports confirm the two-year-old male pit bull attacked Kimberly Shay and her friend Terry after they opened the door of the downstairs apartment unit Shay rents out. During the attack, the renter of the apartment was not present, nor was the dog’s owner – who happened to be a guest staying in the apartment for a night. Because the dog was micro-chipped, investigators were able to trace him back to two other past bite reports in Oregon.

At the time of the report, Shay was recovering at OHSU hospital with a broken bone and multiple wounds. (note: this is one of three attacks in the Portland area in the last three weeks)

From a legal standpoint, the dog owner is strictly liable to the victims under Oregon law because the dog had a history of prior bites/violence.  In Oregon, it is commonly known as the “one-bite rule.”  Strict liability means the dog owner is liable just because the dog attack and resulting injuries happened.  The victim does not have to prove that the owner was somehow negligent.

Also, this story is a good example of the damage that a dangerous dog can inflict on a person – even a grown adult. Pit bulls have propensities to be violent, aggressive and inflict serious damage on their targets. Not all pit bulls are that way of course, but they have inherent characteristics that make them more dangerous and aggressive compared to other dog breeds. If I was a landlord, I would never rent to an owner of a pit bull dog.  This recent incident is a perfect example of why.

In this type of case, the landlord and/or building owner may also be liable for the victim’s injuries under a negligence theory if it/he/she knew that it rented to a pit bull owner and knew that the dog had previously bit someone or had dangerous propensities.  However, here, the landlord is the woman who was attacked.

The particular details of this case are also interesting because Shay and her friend opened the door to see if the tenant’s friend and dog were still in the basement apartment.  Why they did that is not completely clear. Shay may have violated Oregon’s residential landlord-tenant law by accessing her tenant’s apartment without appropriate notice or permission from the tenant.  Perhaps the tenant knew nothing about the dog and its history? Perhaps the tenant and landlord should have asked the dog’s owner?  More information is needed, but I see many potential legal issues surrounding this incident.

Based on the dog’s history of two prior bites and this awful attack on these two women – I believe the Multnomah County Animal Shelter will likely put the dog down.  Of course, the dog’s owner must be given her due process rights before final action is taken.  Regardless, this attack was severe and the victims will most likely require plastic surgery and possibly psychological treatment for the emotional trauma they suffered.  Sadly, this will not be the last time a local person is injured by a dangerous dog.

As a Portland dog bite attorney, I have helped numerous victims cope with their injuries and recover maximum compensation, by holding at-fault parties responsible for the dog attack.  These cases can be extremely painful and disruptive, and making an insurance claim can be difficult and time-consuming. From the moment I take on a dog bite case, I handle everything from the investigation, paperwork, phone calls, settlement negotiations, and legal work so my client can focus on his or her recovery and move on with their life.

If you are bitten by a dog in Oregon, what should you do?

Here is a step-by-step list of what to do after a dog bites you:

1)   First and foremost, seek medical attention right away for your injuries.

2)   Write down the description of the dog including the breed, size, name, coloring/ markings, etc…

3)   Have someone take pictures of your injuries immediately, before they heal or dissipate.

4)   Obtain the name, phone number, address, and email of the dog owner and the person who was in control of the dog during the time of the attack.

5)   List any witnesses who saw the dog bite you – write down their name, phone number, address, and email.

6)   Call me to discuss the details of the dog bite at (503) 444-2825 or email me at travis@mayorlaw.com. I provide free, no obligation consultations and case evaluations.

7)   Do not give a statement to any insurance company until you speak with a seasoned Portland dog bite attorney.

8)   Report the incident to the specific animal control agency in your county. Here is a list of agencies for reference:

– Multnomah Animal Control : (503) 988-7387
– Washington County: (503) 846-7041
– Clackamas County: (503) 655-8628
– Marion County: (503) 588-5366
– Linn County (541) 967-3925

Personal Injury Attorney Travis MayorI represent personal injury and accident victims in the Portland Metropolitan Area, Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington Counties, and throughout the state of Oregon. I provide this Blog as an educational and informational service for Oregon residents – it is not intended to be legal advice, as every case is unique and should be accurately evaluated. If you or a family member have been bitten or injured by a dog and would like a FREE professional consultation with an attorney, call me at (503) 444-2825, or email at travis@mayorlaw.com to learn more about your legal rights.