Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Dog-blog-1

Under longstanding Alabama law, the “owner or keeper” of a vicious or dangerous dog is legally responsible for any injuries caused by the animal.  In some cases, however, if a landlord or property manager has allowed a vicious or dangerous animal to be kept on a rental property, the landlord may be held responsible, if the animal attacks someone.  Alabama law is very complex in this area, but we have extensive experience with dog attack cases at Siniard, Timberlake & League, and are very familiar with the intricacies and challenges of this area of the law.

If a vicious or dangerous dog is present on the premises of an apartment complex or other rental property, Alabama law treats the animal’s presence much like it would any other physical hazard.  A landlord or property manager has a responsibility to handle a dangerous animal just as they would any other known danger on the property.  In Gentle v. Pine Valley Apartments, an apartment complex allowed a tenant to keep a vicious dog tied to a stair railing in a common area outside his apartment, and the dog attacked a passing child.  The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled that the duty of the landlord of an apartment complex extended to using “reasonable care” to protect tenants from dog attacks in common areas of the premises, just as with any other dangerous condition on the property.  In effect, this treats the dangerous animal as an unreasonably dangerous condition or hazard under traditional premises liability law, and the landlord or property manager has a duty to either provide a warning or remove the danger, just as they would with a defective stair, a slick spot, or a hole.

In a case that was handled by Siniard, Timberlake & League, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals further refined this legal principle and applied it to a dog attack that occurred off the rented property.  In Berg v. Nguyen, the renter kept several vicious dogs in the back yard of a rental home and allowed the dogs to escape the property, which led to a person being attacked in the parking lot of a nearby business.  The Court of Civil Appeals agreed with Siniard, Timberlake & League on the principles of law, holding that a landlord could be held responsible for a dog attack that occurred when a vicious dog leaves the property to menace others when the landlord allows the animal to be kept on the property and either knows or should know that the animal is dangerous and poses a risk to persons off the premises.  In such a case, the most important details are whether the landlord or property manager knew the animal was dangerous and allowed it to be kept on the property and whether the landlord knew or should have known that the animal presented a danger to persons off the rented property. Continue reading

3Insurance companies can be difficult to work with when it comes to personal injury claims.  In some instances, an insurance company may deny their insured was responsible for an incident and refuse to make any settlement offer to compensate an injured person for their medical bills, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and lost wages.  In other cases, an insurance company may admit their insured is responsible but will make a settlement offer that does not fairly compensate the injured party or claim that an injury was not caused by the incident.  At this juncture, it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit to obtain a fair resolution.

A lawsuit starts with the filing of a complaint that identifies the responsible parties, describes the facts and circumstances of the incident and makes a claim for damages.  Thereafter, the discovery process allows the parties to gather information about the incident, as well as the injuries.  One of the most important discovery tools is depositions of parties and witnesses. A deposition is simply a question and answer session where a lawyer is allowed ask a witness questions to learn information about a claim. The witness must affirm that his or her answers will be truthful, and a court reporter will transcribe the testimony.  Depositions are often recorded on video so that the appearance and the demeanor of the witness is documented.

Rule 30 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the procedure for taking depositions in Alabama State Courts. Rule 32 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure governs the use of depositions in court proceedings.  Any deposition may be used by any party for the purpose of contradicting or impeaching the testimony of a witness.  A deposition of a witness may be used in court instead of presenting live witness testimony when the witness is dead, is over 100 miles from the place of trial or is out of the state, or is unable to attend due to age, illness, infirmity or imprisonment.  Deposition testimony of licensed physicians or dentists can be used in court as an alternative to calling these witnesses to trial.

Continue reading