Bend, Oregon, USA: The first thing to note is that it is possible and practical to claim compensation if a cat owned by another person bites you and the bite causes serious injury, pain and suffering and consequential financial loss by whatever means such as being unable to work.
In this instance, a cleaner, Jenifer Holland, went into a house to clean it. The house owners, Sarah Reynolds-Jackson and Joshua Chambers, weren’t there but their cat was. Holland entered the house using a hidden key. The cat ran out. She bent down to call the cat back at which point the cat bit her finger. The woman claims that she had to have two surgeries costing her $107,000. There must have been other losses such as pain and suffering and loss of earnings. As a result she is claiming $257,317 in all. The claim seems exaggerated which is normal.
The argument will be that the cat’s owners were aware that their cat might become agitated around the stranger (or is an aggressive cat – unlikely) and therefore the cat might bite a stranger if the cat was alone with that stranger in or near the house which appears to be the case. In other words it was foreseeable. In fact I have learned that the claimant states that the defendants knew that their cat was aggressive. She says that the cat’s owners have admitted to it! A bad move by the owners if this is true. They will deny it at court.
It could be argued that most cats might become agitated if left alone in close proximity to a stranger and therefore the owner should make sure that this does not occur if they wish to completely eliminate the possibility of being a defendant in a claim for negligence in civil law. But this is impractical for indoor/outdoor cats. There must be millions of encounters between cat and stranger in the USA daily. But nothing untoward happens or if it does a claim is not made. Normally the person does not interact with the cat. In this instance the cleaner was probably concerned that the cat might disappear and become lost and so interacted. I sense that the cleaner has a case but her damages will be much less than claimed.
There may be some mitigating circumstances. The cleaning lady may have mishandled the cat but as there are no witnesses she can say what she likes. It will be up to the judge to decide whether she is truthful are not. The plaintiff (the cleaner who was bitten) may have been negligent herself if she failed to treat the bite or deal with it expeditiously. If left untreated some bites can develop into nasty infections but if treated promptly there is little to be concerned about. Judging by her medical bill she appears to have been negligent. This would be ‘contributory negligence’ and it could reduce the amount of her damages substantially and possibly almost totally if her claim was successful.
However, I think the important aspect of this story is that it is possible for a cat owner to become liable in a claim for compensation because of the behaviour of their cat. There are quite a few cases on the Internet where this has happened. Normally dogs are the culprits and therefore there is lots of case law on compensation for animal bites.
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