Legal Q&A; Dog Bite

Disclaimer: It should be noted that this is a very brief overview of an area of law that is extremely vast and complicated. This should in no way be interpreted as being comprehensive. Equally, this is not intended as being advice: only general information on civil responsibility.

Facts:

                An individual was bitten by somebody else’s dog. The dog was on a lead however the lead was long enough so that the dog could leave its owner’s property and bite the individual.

Questions:

The following question has been raised as a result of this situation:

1)      What damages may be claimed?

The Law

This situation falls under civil responsibility and extra-contractual liability in the Civil Code of Quebec (hereinafter “CCQ”). Section 1466 CCQ states:

“The owner of an animal is liable to reparation for injury it has caused, whether the animal was under his custody or that of a third person, or had strayed or escaped. The person making use of the animal is together with the owner, also liable during that time.”

This section applies to domestic animals and animals that the owner can exert a certain control over.[1]

It creates presumption of liability against both the owner and the person making use of the animal and therefore they would not be able to exonerate their liability by proving an absence of fault. They would only be able to invoke force majeur or the fault of the victim in order to exonerate or diminish their liability.[2]

The victim, injured by an animal, would therefore be able to claim damages from the owner and/or the person making use of the animal. Section 1607 C.c.Q. treats the reward of damages and states:

The creditor is entitled to damages for bodily, moral or material injury which is an immediate and direct consequence of the debtor’s default.

In Quebec there are two types of prejudice: material and bodily injury. Regarding material injury the person injured would be entitled to the full replacement cost of the item lost or damaged.[3]

When person also suffers bodily injury their loss is divided into three categories:[4]

  1. Cost of Treatment
  2. Loss of Salary
  3. Moral Prejudice

Regarding cost of treatment, an injured person would be able to claim any cost related to medical treatment not covered by the government health insurance plan.[5]

Section 1611 C.c.Q. allows an injured person to claim any loss of salary, present or future that is related to the injury.

Finally, in some cases an injured individual may also be entitled to damages for moral injury they suffered. It should be noted that this is not used to punish the person who is responsible for the injury, but rather to compensate the victim for pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life as a result of an injury.[6] The amount that may be awarded as moral damage can be anywhere between zero (should the judge not award any moral damages) and one-hundred thousand dollars (the maximum amount that Supreme Court has decided that may be claimed as moral damages).[7] This amount must be interpreted as one hundred thousand dollars in 1978 when the Supreme Court rendered this decision and is presently evaluated at being around three-hundred and twenty five thousand dollars.[8]

An example of moral damages being awarded in the case of a dog bite that left the victim with a permanent fear of animals is: Vadnais c. Sanchez Rolando, 2011 QCCQ 10984 (CanLII). In this case the victim was awarded five thousand dollars in total. An example of when the court decided that the plaintiffs’ claims for moral damages following a dog attack was greatly exaggerated and chose not to award the amount claimed can be found here: Khouri v. Masilanmany, 2005 CanLII 40575 (QC CQ).

For claims not exceeding $7000 section 953 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that the claim must be brought before Small Claims. For claims under $70 000, section 34 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that the claim must be brought before the Court of Quebec, and for any suit over $70 000 section 31 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that the claim must be brought before the Superior Court.


[1] Alicia SOLDEVILA, « La responsabilité pour le fait ou la faute d’autrui et pour le fait des biens »  dans Collection de droit 2012 – 2013, École du Barreau du Québec, vol. 4, La Responsabilité Cowansville, Éditions Yvon Blais, 2013, page 63

[2] Ibid., page 64 and 65

[3] Patrice DESLAURIERS, « L’indemnisation résultant d’une atteinte à une bien »  dans Collection de droit 2012 – 2013, École du Barreau du Québec, vol. 4, La Responsabilité, Cowansville, Éditions Yvon Blais, 2013, p. 165 and 166

[4] Patrice DESLAURIERS, « L’indemnisation du préjudice corporel »  dans Collection de droit 2012 – 2013, École du Barreau du Québec, vol. 4, La Responsabilité, Cowansville, Éditions Yvon Blais, 2013, p. 175

[5] Ibid., p. 183

[6] Ibid., p. 187

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

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