A mix-breed pit bull ran out its door and took a bite at a small dog known for spending time making cancer survivors feel better. Turned out the “bite” was only a scratch and no stitches – only an animal Band-Aid – were needed. Our client even offered to pay for the visit to the veterinarian. Also, this was the client’s dog’s first “bite”.
Reviewing the minutes of meetings or board meeting summaries, the board of this building has always met with alleged offenders or fined the offending owner. However, less than a week after this dog bite, court papers were filed seeking immediate eviction of the dog.
The condominium building had formidable evidence. Directly in the governing documents was included a paragraph that forbade pit bulls from entering the building. Although the offending dog had been spending time helping one of its owners heal from a serious accident after being hit by a car while on a bicycle, our client failed to register the animal as a service dog until after the incident. The board somehow put in affidavits against our client claiming the pit bull was vicious, not only including photos of the incident but also another owner’s claims that the dog made vicious noises at him.
In our client’s defense, at the same, for many months, the owner had been in weekly therapy for his physical pain and the emotional toll that the car accident had taken when it caused this former professional athlete’s career ending injury.
Moving into the building 5 years earlier, we alleged the board waived its ability to try to evict the dog. We offered to take precautions to make sure such an incident could never happen again.
But we realized that this was too dangerous of a case to go to trial. This was not a case with a guaranteed victory. The building’s documents were against us. The waiver argument was a good one but a judge could have also ruled against us on the issue. We were one year away from the 6 year statute of limitations where the dog could not be evicted under the corporate documents.
We realized we needed to win this case out of court.
We first gathered the financials and records of the building and learned they needed hundreds of thousands of dollars in major repairs but instead were spending over a hundred thousand dollars to evict the dog, assuming they would win and we would have to pay the board’s attorney fees.
The building did not have enough money to pay for even a quarter of the repairs needed in the building and although there were residents rampantly breaking building rules, a lawsuit was only brought against our client.
To make matters worse, the owner of the other dog in the incident was not only on the board, but actively participating in the litigation; besides having a direct conflict that any decent condominium attorney would require, the owner also participated in votes and discussions about how to navigate the case.
Trying to save money and put an end to the litigation, we advised our client to apply to the Human Rights Commission, which not only took the case but sued the building and the board for discrimination for denying the pit bull owner a service dog.
The stars started to align for us.
First, knowing that insurers do not provide coverage for intentional torts, the board would be fighting two lawsuits in two different courts.
Second, the building did not have the funds to prosecute two cases in two different courts.
Third, our client drafted a letter explaining the actions of the board, including the legal bills spent by the board and the true story of the incident which shed some sympathy on my client. This letter immediately had an adverse impact on the board.
Fourth, the board lost its motion for a preliminary injunction in court and lost every court battle thrown upon our clients. The board must have been losing faith in their attorneys and the case.
Fifth, no building likes to be sued for discrimination and the board could not justify to the owners why spending money trying to evict a dog was more important than commencing important repairs to the building.
The board caved. A settlement agreement was reached. The mix-breed pit bull got to stay in her home, making her parents happy. And other promises were made, protecting our client’s rights in the future in case the board wanted to exact revenge.
To date, this pit bull has never had another problem.
Adam Leitman Bailey, Jeffrey Metz and Rachel Sigmund represented the dog owner on behalf of Adam Leitman Bailey, P.C.
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