While I have been unable to find any statistics for cat-bite claims, the Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2012, insurers across the country paid nearly $489 million in dog bite claims. Bite cliams tallied about one-third of all homeowners liability payouts in 2012.
I recently had a jury trial where the Plaintiff alleged she was viciously attacked by a house cat, causing permanent injury and scarring. There was no doubt that the Plaintiff had visible scars which were most likely permanent. But the jury returned a verdict for the defense. With more than 4.7 million animal bite victims each year, what did we learn from this defense verdict that can help resolve future animal bite claims?
Despite the severity of the injury, the jury was most concerned about the pets’ behavior patterns prior to the incident. They really wanted something “more” than typical cat play behavior (i.e. chasing, batting, scratching) before finding that the cat had vicious propensities.
Just because animals can be unpredictable, owners do not need to assume the worst will happen. The owner had merely shut the cat in a separate room while her property was on the market. Plaintiff argued – and the Defendant agreed – that had the cat been in a kennel the incident would not have happened. We can only assume that they jury felt the Defendant took reasonable steps despite there being a “better” alternative if the worst were to have happened.
Potential jurors have very strong opinions about pets – taking the time to explore their opinions was important to predict which issues would be pivitol to their decision.
A permanent injury should not frighten Defendants into immediately paying animal bite claims. When the facts are there, trust that a jury will make the right decision-