Court Finds Government Immunity Does Not Apply in Recent Dog Bite Case

Last month, an appellate court in nearby West Virginia issued a written opinion in a dog bite case that required the court to determine if the local county government could be held liable for the plaintiff’s loss of a loved one based on a government employee’s failure to act. Ultimately, the court concluded that a special relationship was created by the plaintiff’s repeated efforts to notify the city of the dangerous dogs. Thus, the court permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed.

Dog's EyesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving loved one of a man who had died after being viciously attacked by several dogs belonging to a neighbor. Prior to the death of her husband, the plaintiff had expressed her concern about the dogs by calling 911 and speaking with the county’s dog warden. The plaintiff explained that she thought the dogs were dangerous and that something should be done. The dog warden told the plaintiff that “the county would take care of it.”

On a separate occasion, the dog warden traveled to the dogs’ owner’s home. When the warden pulled into the driveway, one of the dogs approached the car and jumped on the hood. The dog warden reported being frightened to the point where she would not exit the vehicle. She later cited the dog’s owner for failing to keep the dog restrained.

The Court’s Decision

The defendant county argued that it was entitled to immunity under the public duty doctrine. The public duty doctrine grants immunity to government entities for injuries occurring due to a violation of a duty owed to the public as a whole. However, when the government owes a person a specific duty, the public duty doctrine no longer confers immunity, based on the special relationship between the government entity and the person to whom the duty is owed.

Here, the court held that the defendant county did owe the plaintiff a specific duty and potentially violated that duty by failing to take action to address the dangerous dogs in a timely manner. The court considered the plaintiff’s 911 call, as well as the fact that the dog warden had personal knowledge about the dangerous dogs. Taking both of these facts into account, the court held that a special relationship was created between the plaintiff and the county, potentially requiring the county to take some action.

As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed toward trial or to settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Dog Bite Attack?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a dog bite, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the attack, there may be more than one liable party. However, in most cases, a home owner’s insurance policy will defend against the lawsuit, potentially making it more difficult for you to obtain fair compensation. For assistance in your case, contact one of the dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC at 410-654-3600 today. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Court Allows Defendant’s Prior DUI Convictions into Evidence in Recent Car Accident Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 22, 2017.

Maryland Appellate Court Holds That a Statute of Limitations May Be Tolled When a Defendant Fraudulently Conceals Important Evidence, Maryland Accident Law Blog, June 1, 2017.

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