Appellate Court Finds Family Negligent When Son’s Dog Bites Neighbor

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an appeal from a negligence lawsuit filed after a man suffered injuries because of a dog bite. The court found that the parents of a son whose dog bit their neighbor were negligent and therefore liable for the injuries the neighbor sustained. The case is relevant to Maryland dog bite cases because it illustrates the manner in which courts view these claims as well as a common theory of liability.

Facts of the Case

Animal control was called to a location because there was a report of a vicious dog. The dog was owned by the son of the couple who owned the house. When the animal control officer arrived, she attempted to capture the animal, but even with assistance, it proved difficult because the animal was aggressively charging at anyone in the vicinity. The next day, the son called animal control to report that the dog was missing. The city explained that the son must sign a form that he acknowledged the requirements of keeping and controlling an aggressive dog. The father verbally agreed to follow the requirements and keep the dog on his property, rather than at the son’s apartment.

A few months later, the animal control officer received a report that a dog bite occurred near the family’s home. Later, the owner of the dog was identified as the defendants’ son. The son was cited for not controlling his dog, and the father stated that the son and the dog are not allowed on his property. Evidently, the bite occurred when the neighbor asked if he could pet the dog, and the son agreed, stating that if the dog and neighbor became “friends,” the dog may stop charging at the fence. When the neighbor went to pet the dog, the dog jumped up, knocked him down, and bit his face. Sadly, a whole segment of the man’s face was torn off.

Procedural Posture

About two years after the accident, the neighbor filed a negligence lawsuit against various parties, including the father and the son. The parents filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they did not have a duty to protect the neighbor from the dog. The trial jury found that it was foreseeable that the dog could cause an injury and they were negligent and negligent per se in caring for the dog. The family then appealed to the appellate court.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision and found that they did not commit a reversible error. The neighbor’s award of $185,000 in non-economic damages and $16,603 in economic damages was affirmed.

The Dog Bite Statute in Maryland

Under Maryland’s dog bite statute, owners of a dog that is “running at large” while an attack occurs may be held “strictly” liable for any damages that ensue because of the dog’s behavior. In these situations, the plaintiff does not need to establish that the owner was at fault because in most cases, this statute supposes a presumption that the owner should have known or knew of the dog’s propensities. In addition to strict liability, a dog owner in these situations may also be liable in a negligence lawsuit. In these cases, the plaintiffs will need to establish that the owner’s lack of reasonable care resulted in the injury.

Have You Been Injured Following a Dog Bite in Maryland?

If you or a loved one has been injured after being bitten by a dog, you should contact the experienced Maryland personal injury attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen. The attorneys at our firm have many years of experience handling Maryland dog bite cases. We can assist you in understanding which laws apply to your case and how you can effectively pursue compensation for your injuries. Contact the office at 800-654-1949 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Insurance Company’s Obligations in Horse-Drawn Carriage Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 15, 2018.

Plaintiff’s Failure to Prove Defendant Knew of Puddle’s Existence Results in Dismissal of Premises Liability Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, May 1, 2018.

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