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.
This case highlights the various limitations plaintiffs often face when holding a dog owner responsible for their dog’s conduct. While most circumstances impute liability on an owner for injuries their dog causes, certain situations may negate liability. In addition to comparative negligence defenses, an owner may avoid liability in cases where:
- The victim was unlawfully on the property
- The victim was providing the dog
- The dog was defending the owner while near a perceived threat.
Florida dog bite cases can be very complex, and anyone injured by another’s animal should reach out to a dedicated Florida personal injury lawyer for assistance.
Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Dog or Other Domestic Animal
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a Florida dog bite or attack, contact Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. The attorneys at our firm have a long history of successfully fighting for injury victims’ rights. We handle Florida accident cases involving truck accidents, dog bites, roofer falls, electrical injuries, cruise ship passenger claims, negligent security, and other personal injury and wrongful death claims. We have recovered significant amounts of compensation on behalf of our clients. Damages in these cases typically involve payments for medical expenses, ongoing treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team. Calling is free, and we will not charge you for our legal representation unless and until we can recover compensation on your behalf.