Appellate Court Determines Dog Attack Plaintiff’s Case Should Go Forward, Despite No Allegations of Physical Contact

Earlier last month, an appellate court in Nebraska heard an interesting personal injury case in which the plaintiff was injured by her own reaction to a dog’s aggressive approach, rather than any injury sustained by physical contact with the dog itself. In the case, Grammer v. Lucking, the plaintiff sustained injuries to her arm and elbow after she tripped and fell as she was backing away from an approaching dog owned by the defendant.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and her husband were on a walk when, as they approached the defendant’s home, the couple attracted the attention of two of the defendant’s dogs. One of the dogs was on a chain and was unable to get close to the couple, but the other dog was free and was able to run up to the couple. As the dog approached the plaintiff, she stepped back and lost her footing, falling to the ground. She sustained injuries as a result of the fall and filed a lawsuit against the dogs’ owner.

At trial, the court granted summary judgment for the defendant, noting that the dog did not “chase” or “injure” the plaintiff, as is required by state statute.

On Appeal, the Ruling is Reversed

The plaintiff appealed the case, arguing that the lower court failed to consider all relevant definitions of the word “chase,” and under alternate definitions the dog’s behavior could be classified as chasing. The plaintiff also argued that the statute allows for recovery when a dog “injures” someone, and the lower court did not even consider this as an avenue of recovery.

The appellate court ultimately agreed with the plaintiff and reversed the judgment of the lower court. Thus, the plaintiff’s case will proceed to trial.

Dog Bite Cases in Maryland

In Maryland, there is a similar statute in effect to the one the court analyzed in Grammer. The dog does not need to actually bite someone in order for the dog’s owner to be liable for damages. An “attack” is sufficient under the statute. Moreover, in Maryland, the fact that an animal attacks someone gives rise to a rebuttable presumption that the owner knew the dog was dangerous. This results in a form of strict liability, meaning that the injured party does not necessarily need to show that the dog owner was negligent in the care of the dog.

Have You Been the Victim of a Vicious Dog Attack?

If you or a loved one has recently been the victim of a vicious dog attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries. As noted above, Maryland law does not require that a dog attack victim establish “fault” or negligence in these cases. To learn more about what must be established in dog attack cases, and to speak with a dedicated Maryland personal injury advocate about your case, call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Upholds “Release of Liability” Form in Whitewater Rafting Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 18, 2016.

Maryland Court Allows Plaintiff to Recover Compensation After Accident with Police but Limits Damages Under Tort Claims Act, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 1, 2016.

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