Today, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case of Benningfield v. Zinsmeister. I represent Brandon Benningfield, who was 8 years old at the time he was mauled by a dog across the street from the house where the dog was living. The dog (a large, male Rottweiler) was living in a home that was being rented from landlords (the Zinsmeisters) who lived right next door. The dog kept getting out of the yard, and the Zinsmeisters knew it, but no effort was made to make the tenants get rid of the dog or otherwise restrain it prior to Brandon's attack. When Brandon was attacked, the landlords denied any and all liability.
My argument to the Kentucky Supreme Court was that the legislature, in KRS Chapter 258 (the "dog bite" statutes) meant to extend liability for dog attacks to landlords who "permit dogs to remain on or about property owned by them." The statute clearly and unambiguously provides that any landlord who does so becomes an "owner" of the dog and "shall be liable" for any damages the dog causes to an innocent victim.
The Kentucky Supreme Court agreed with me that a landlord can be a dog owner in those circumstances and, thus, strictly liable for a dog attack victim's damages - overturning years of bad opinions issued by lower courts misinterpreting the dog bite laws. Unfortunately, the Court restricted a landlord's liability to attacks that occur on or about the rental property. Because of the Court's imposed restrictions, the Zinsmeisters will not be held in any way responsible for what happened to Brandon.
While I am sad that Brandon will not be properly compensated, I am very proud that I was able to create a change in the law that will ensure thousands of innocent victims of dog attacks will have a remedy. Sometimes you lose a battle and win a war - which is exactly how I see the Court's opinion in this case.