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Pennsylvania attorney Thomas J. Newell, who specializes in personal injury claims, announced that his firm has just obtained a $508,613.84 settlement from a landlord’s insurance carrier after a tenant’s pit bulls attacked a young boy.

The landlord had allowed the tenant to keep the dogs.

According to Newell, the dogs jumped a three and a half foot fence into a homeowner’s yard and mauled the boy.  He sustained serious injuries which required 17 surgeries. His mother was also injured when she tried to help her son fend off the dogs. The family’s bills exceeded $500,000.

The landlords insurance company filed lawsuits in both federal and state courts arguing that, due to language in the policy, it could deny financial responsibility for the attack. However, Newell says he was successful in fighting those claims, and the insurance company ultimately conceded, agreeing to pay the victims the liability policy limits.

Last summer, an appellate court in Kentucky overruled a lower court’s decision that a landlord was not liable for injuries when a tenant’s dog bit someone across the street from a rental property.  Now, landlords in Kentucky may be viewed as “statutory owners” of tenants’ dogs simply by approving a pet request.

Conversely, a Wisconsin court decided in March, 2011 that a landlord could not be held liable when a tenant’s pit bull attacked a neighbor, enforcing a longstanding policy in the state that landlords are only liable if the animal belongs to the landlord or is specifically under their control.  Judges found that being in control of the rental property is not enough to show control over the dog.

A number of cities and counties across the country, including some in Pennsylvania, have considered breed-specific legislation banning pit bulls and other breeds thought to have vicious propensities. Those laws have come under heavy opposition by animal rights advocates who say that the individual dog, not the breed, determines whether the animal is a risk.

Newell  says he has recently represented a number of dog attack victims throughout Pennsylvania.

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