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Can a county be held liable for a dog attack?

When it comes to dog attacks, it is not always clear as to what person or entity should be held accountable. A recent court of appeals order held that Los Angeles County would not be held liable for a pit bull attack that occurred in the area.

The pit bull incident resulted from a dog attack on one of three brothers as they were walking home from school. Apparently, two pit bulls jumped over the fence at the residence where these dogs were being kept and proceeded to maul the young boy. This attack followed numerous complaints that were apparently made to the county, and the plaintiffs in this lawsuit claimed that the county took no action.

It's not unusual in dog bite and dog attack cases to find that certain dogs had a long history of causing problems for individuals living in the neighborhood. Here, there apparently were compliance orders served upon the pit bull owner, but it has been suggested that the order was so vaguely worded as to not be effective in keeping the dogs under control.

However, it may have been ordinances that appeared to not impose a mandatory duty on the Department of Animal Care and Control that prevented the plaintiffs from prevailing in this lawsuit. It's because of difficulties that arise in interpretation of ordinances that dog bite injury cases can be more complicated that one originally seems, and why consultation with an attorney that does understand the ordinances could be of benefit.

Simply because the county was left off the hook does not mean the plaintiffs were out of options. It is important that all options be explored before making a determination as to what legal course to take.

Source: Metropolitan News-Enterprise, "Court of Appeals Holds County Not Liable for Pit Bull Attack," by Kenneth Ofgang, Sep. 21, 2012

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