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Your Home and the Law: Part III

In this installment of your home and the law, I will explore several situations where a homeowner may be liable for damages caused to others. This article will discuss liability for injuries caused by the family dog, and premises liability issues. These are common situations that arise for homeowners.

In this installment of your home and the law, I will explore several situations where a homeowner may be liable for damages caused to others.  This article will discuss liability for injuries caused by the family dog, and premises liability issues.  These are  common situations that arise for homeowners.

The law in Wisconsin imposes strict liability on the keeper of a dog if that dog injures someone.  The law defines keeper more broadly than just the owner.  For instance, if your mother-in-law is staying with you in your home, and her dog injures a child in the neighborhood, you and your mother-in-law may be liable for the injuries caused.  The law is not limited to injuries caused by bites.  Let’s say your high-energy golden retriever knocks a guest down the steps injuring him.  The dog bite statute imposes liability in that situation as well.

Most homeowner’s policies cover the situations discussed above.  There is a growing trend to exclude certain breeds from coverage.  These dogs are considered dangerous, and include Pit Bulls, Doberman Pincers, German Shepherds and Rottweilers.  This list is not exhaustive, and you may surprised to find that your dog is on the "dangerous dogs" list.  You should check with your agent to make sure your dog is covered under your homeowners policy.

There are many types of premises liability claims that arise each year.  Let’s say you have a deck party and it collapses injuring several of your guests, or you have an eaves trough that drips water onto the sidewalk by the front door, it freezes,  and the UPS man falls hurting himself.  In these cirmcumstances the injured person may have a claim against you and your homeowners policy.

These premises liability claims are not strict liability and the injured person would have to prove that the homeowner was negligent in maintaining or repairing their property.  The law also compares the fault of the injured person to the fault of the homeowner.  In the UPS example, the law explores the actions of the delivery person to see if he was in a hurry, or not paying attention.  It then compares the delivery man’s actions to the homeowner for failing to fix the eaves trough, or make sure the area was salted in cold weather.

If you have questions about homeowner’s liability contact dgahnz@lawtoncates.com.

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