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If you have insurance coverage, you should tender this claim to your insurance carrier. Depending on how the insurance policy is written, the carrier may have a duty to defend you, indemnify you, and/or hold you harmless. They will assess the case and pay damages if they feel this was your responsibility. You should consult your own attorney to protect your legal rights.
In my opinion you have no liability. There was no history of aggression by your dog and both owners agreed To allow the dogs to socialize. Both you and the other owner assumed the risk. This is a classic case of "stuff" happens.
I would check your insurance policy, but most CA carriers have specific exclusions for certain types of dogs (incl. Pit Bulls, Dobermans, German Shepherds and Rottweilers), so given your breed of dog, there may be such an exclusion.
As for liability, CA Civ. Code section 3341 is a "strict liability" statute where the owner is liable for any dog bite of a person, regardless of any knowledge of any dangerous propensities of the dog. BUT, that section only addresses bites of people. California Civil Code section 3341 provides that the owner, possessor or harborer of a dog that wounds certain animals -- not including dogs and cats -- must pay damages and costs of suit.
I would argue that the dog bite statutes do not apply to injuries "dog to dog." BUT, you may be liable under general negligence theories. Even then, since dogs are considered "property", you would be liable only for the other dog's "value", not the veterinarian care.
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Let the owner of the dog sue you, and turn your papers over to your insurance company. However, there may be an exclusion on the policy for dangerous dogs such as pitbulls, rottweilers, mastiffs, etc.
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The other dog's owner will have to prove that it was your dog that caused the injuries. I imagine if there was a fight, your dog would also show some signs of a fight.
You absolutely should notify your homeowner's insurance carrier immediately, but be sure to tell them that you have no proof that it was your dog that caused the injuries (if that is true).
If we do not have a signed fee agreement I am not your attorney and this is not legal advice.
It appears that neither of you are homeowners. However, if you have renters insurance, report this incident to your renters liability insurance company and have them handle this entire matter for you.
If you are not insured, you may wish to consult with a local attorney in your area. I understand that California has a rather straightforward strict dog liability statute and you should discuss the implications of that statute with a local attorney. Anyone with a potentially dangerous dog should make sure that they are carrying homeowners or renters insurance to protect them from significant claims.
The fact that your dog is trained etc. is really irrelevant. When any 2 dogs get into a fight, prior training will not prevent the dog from using its full capabilities in defending itself. I am familiar with pit bulls and one of their traits is to be very tenacious and not easily give up or back away from a fight.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
Under California law, you could be held liable for veterinary expenses reasonably incurred. If you are an insured, your insurance could pay on your behalf.
Years ago, I represented a defendant in such a case. The bills were over $6,000. The case was settled for $3,000 paid by a homeowner's policy held by the defendant.
Negligence and personal injury Premises liability for personal injuries Personal injury Personal injury lawsuits Types of personal injuries Personal injury and animal attacks Dog bites and injuries Residential property Property liability Homeowner's insurance for property liability Renting a house or apartment Renter's insurance Lawsuits and disputes Civil rights Animal law
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