COVID-19 FAQs

Articles Posted in Dog Bites

Although our furry friends are often companions for life, sometimes animals can lead to accidents with significant consequences. When unexpected injuries take place, it is crucial that potential plaintiffs have a full understanding of their rights under Florida law.

In a recent District Court of Appeal case, a Florida court examined a dispute stemming from an alleged dog bite incident. In the case at hand, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s dog caused him to suffer physical and neurological injuries. At trial, the plaintiff and his wife testified that they were watching the dog for a few days when the plaintiff turned his back and the dog ran behind him and knocked him down, rendering him unconscious. Because of other conflicting testimony from both parties, it appeared unclear whether the defendant’s dog or if dogs that the plaintiff also owned caused the plaintiff’s injuries. As a result, the jury rendered a verdict for the defendant and found that the dog was not the legal cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries. The plaintiff, however, was later granted a directed verdict and a new trial on the issue of damages.

On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s directed verdict and sided with the defendants. In directing the trial court to reinstate the jury’s original verdict, the District Court of Appeal stated that testimony introduced at trial equipped the jury to make a decision. Because the evidence presented was ample and provided the jury with the opportunity to accept or reject the testimony presented to them, the jury had a reasonable opportunity to make its conclusions and the trial court erred in overriding the jury’s verdict.

Recently, the District Court of Appeal of Florida issued a decision in an appeal involving injuries a woman suffered when a dog ran towards her and her dog. The woman filed a claim against the dog owners under Florida Law Section 767.01. Under the statute, “owners of dogs shall be liable for any damages done by their dogs to a person.” The jury found in favor of the victim and returned a million-dollar verdict, which the defendants appealed. Amongst several issues, the court reviewed how causation played into cases involving non-bite-related injuries.

While prior case law reaffirmed that section 767.01 is a strict liability statute, courts have offered essential caveats to the rule. Specifically, Florida courts reject the view that strict liability for dog owners applies in every case where the dog’s actions are a factor in the injury. As such, the plaintiff must establish that the dog engaged in an affirmative or aggressive act. However, the courts also explained that the imposition of liability might be appropriate when the animal did not touch the plaintiff. Further, Florida courts have found that the common law defenses to a claim apply to Florida dog injury cases.

This case falls squarely within the statute’s provisions involving situations where a dog caused an injury to someone, but not by biting them. Here, the plaintiff’s injuries occurred when she tripped and fell while the dog lunged towards her. The defendant argued that they should be able to present comparative negligence defenses and a third-party negligence defense. The appellate court found that the lower court was correct when it precluded the defendant from presenting a third-party negligence define. However, the deprivation of the defendant’s comparative negligence defense requires a reversal and a new trial on that specific issue.

Florida dog bite law imposes liability on dog owners if their dog bites another person when the victim is lawfully in a private place or a public place. This statute only includes incidents in which a person suffers injuries specifically resulting from a dog bite. In cases in which a person suffers another type of injury from a dog, such as a scratch or a fall, the owner may be liable if the victim establishes that the owner’s negligence or failure to use reasonable care caused their injury.

Moreover, Florida courts follow strict liability theories when addressing dog bite injuries. Strict liability in dog bite cases means that owners can be liable when their dog bites another person, even if the person had no previous knowledge or warning that the dog might attack or bite someone. Unlike victims of other dog-related injuries, dog bite victims do not need to establish that the owner failed to take reasonable care to prevent their dog from biting the victim.

Dog bite victims may want to hold a landlord liable for injuries that they suffered because of a dog bite. For instance, plaintiffs in a neighboring state filed a lawsuit against a landlord after a dog escaped a yard and bit a woman. The dog bite victim alleged that the landlord was liable because he failed to repair a broken gate latch, which allowed the dog to escape the yard and attack the victim.

Under Florida law, a dog owner can be held strictly liable for any injuries caused by their animal. This means that in a Florida dog bite case, the plaintiff will not need to establish that the animal’s owner was negligent in any way or that the owner knew of the dog’s propensity to attack in order to recover for their injuries.

A recent case discusses a slightly different situation in which a plaintiff who was bitten by a dog filed a personal injury lawsuit against the landlord who rented a home to the owner of the dogs. In this case, the court determined that to hold the landlord liable, the plaintiff needed to establish that the landlord knew that the dogs were dangerous.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the landlord owned a home that she had rented to a family for several years. During this time, the landlord had the opportunity to get to know the tenants’ three pit bulls. The landlord explained that she did not know the dogs to be aggressive and had never seen them attack any person or animal.

Continue Reading ›

In Florida, when a dog attacks someone who is on public property or if they are bitten while on private property (with the owner’s permission), they can pursue a claim for compensation from the animal’s owner for any injuries they sustained. The state’s dog bite statute governs these Florida dog bite cases.

Under Florida Statutes section 767.04, an owner is strictly liable for any injuries caused by their animal. This means that the dog bite victim will not need to establish that the owner was negligent in any way to recover. The mere fact that a dog bit someone is sufficient to establish liability. Thus, Florida law is somewhat unique in that an owner is liable “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”

This is an important distinction between Florida’s dog bite statute and similar statutes in other states. For example, many states employ the “one bite rule,” which essentially provides the owner of a dog with immunity from liability the first time their dog attacks or bites someone else. The rationale behind this rule is that the owner of an animal cannot be held liable for injuries caused by a dog that they had no way of knowing would attack a human and has never done so in the past.

Continue Reading ›

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.Under 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.

Continue Reading ›

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.Under 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.

Continue Reading ›

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.Ultimately, 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.

Continue Reading ›

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.”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.

Continue Reading ›

In 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.

Continue Reading ›

Contact Information