Articles Posted in Dog Bites

Most Florida personal injury cases are brought under the legal theory of negligence. That is, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care that was violated, and this violation resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries. However, Florida dog bite cases are different in that they are analyzed under a strict liability framework.

Mad DogUnder a strict liability framework, courts do not assess the potential negligence of the defendant. In fact, it is irrelevant if a defendant was negligent. Instead, the plaintiff need only establish that the defendant owned the object or instrumentality that caused their injuries. In a dog bite case, this merely requires that the plaintiff establish ownership.

There is, however, a very specific defense to a Florida dog bite case. If a defendant dog owner can establish that there was a sign outside the enclosure where the dog was held, displaying the words “Bad Dog,” anyone injured by the dog cannot hold the owner liable. This exception, however, is quite narrow, as illustrated in a recent appellate decision.

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While dogs are known as man’s best friend, they can occasionally turn on humans and cause serious injuries. When a dog causes injuries to another person, the injured party may be able to seek financial compensation for their injuries through a Florida dog bite case.

Dog BiteUnder Florida law, the owners of dogs are strictly liable for any injuries caused by their animals. This means that anyone who has suffered a dog bite injury will not need to establish that the owner was negligent in any way; it is enough to prove ownership of the dog. That being said, this only applies if the victim of the attack is lawfully on the property of the dog’s owner. Additionally, if the victim of the dog’s attack is deemed to have been negligent in bringing about their own injuries – perhaps by taunting the dog – the victim’s ultimate award amount will be reduced by their own percentage of fault.

A recent dog bite case illustrates how strict liability plays out in practice.

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Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a dog bite case in which the plaintiff was bitten by a neighbor’s dog after she was invited over to the neighbor’s home. In that case, the court discussed in detail that state’s requirement that the plaintiff establish not only that the dog was vicious or dangerous but also that the defendant knew about the dog’s dangerous nature.

Dog RunningUltimately, the court determined that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of the defendants’ knowledge of the dog’s dangerous nature. Specifically, the court pointed to two instances in which the dog had snapped at people when they attempted to feed it. This evidence, the court held, was sufficient evidence to establish that the owners of the dog knew or should have known that the dog could be dangerous.

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Plaintiff Jessica Tedrow filed suit in April 2013 against Jimmy Cannon under Florida’s dog-bite statute. Tedrow alleged that her daughter was injured by Cannon’s dog during a party at Cannon’s home in April 2012. The statute provides that “[t]he owner of any dog that bites any person…is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten.” But it also provides that if the owner “had displayed in a prominent place” a sign including the words “Bad Dog,” the owner is only liable if “the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner.”

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Cannon responded with a motion for attorneys’ fees, alleging that Tedrow’s complaint had no basis in law and that Cannon “had displayed in a prominent place an easily readable sign including the words, ‘Bad Dog.'” After 21 days, Cannon filed the motion for attorneys’ fees with the circuit court, asserting that he could not be held strictly liable under the statute because he had displayed a “Bad Dog” sign.

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rottweilers-2-1123761-m.jpgIn a recent case an insurer filed a motion for rehearing on a dog bite case. The case arose out of a living situation in which a woman and her two sons lived with the woman’s boyfriend and his two dogs.

One day as the woman was dressing one of her sons, she and her boyfriend heard the other son screaming. One of the dogs was biting the other son in the spare bedroom. They tried to get the dog to let go, but when the dog let go of the boy, she bit the woman in the face, injuring her too.

The boyfriend’s home was insured under a homeowner’s policy. The policy offered personal liability coverage to the boyfriend for $100,000 per occurrence “Occurrence” was defined as an accident that resulted in bodily or property injury.

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Dog bites can happen in surprising places. Whether it is the governor’s mansion, or the dog-friendly stretch of Lincoln Road, dogs sometimes lash out at others, unprovoked. Recently, a waitress was mauled by a dog while attempting to serve the dog water. The dog ripped into her lip, requiring 300 stitches and seven hours of surgery. Even though police were called to the scene, no charges were filed and the dog was allowed to remain with the owner.

If you have been the victim of a dog bite, contact Florida dog bite attorneys today to see whether you may be entitled to compensation.

Florida expects dog owners to be responsible owners. While a dog does not have to be deemed dangerous for a dog-owner to be held liable, a dog can be determined to be dangerous if it has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property; has either severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off its owner’s property; is used for dog fighting; or attacked or chased someone down the street, unprovoked, in a way meant for an attack (which would have to be verified in an official investigation and with a sworn statement by one or more individuals).

dog teeth.jpgOccasionally, a dog-bite victim may find they have to defend themselves against claims of comparative negligence. Florida law allows a jury to consider whether the victim of an injury in any way caused his or her own injury. If they consider the victim to be negligent, and that this negligence contributed to the injury, then the liability of the other party who contributed to the harm could be reduced.

The CDC estimates that about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Approximately 20% of those people had to seek medical attention, including serious procedures like reconstructive surgery. In Florida alone, more than 500 victims of dog bites require hospitalization. Dog bites can lead to a life-threatening rabies infection, which is known to be prevalent in Florida. In 2006 over 300 individuals were recommended post-exposure prophylaxis due to dog bites. As medical costs continue to grow, one cannot afford to be found partially liable.

Dog bites do not only leave physical scars, they also have long-lasting psychological impacts. People who sustain dog bites will often have acute stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder. Various intensive therapies may be required to make the victim feel safe again.

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