Articles Posted in Dog Bite/Attack

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.

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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.

walk-with-the-dog-1538556The 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.

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Earlier this year in July, a Maryland State Trooper was responding to a call in Mechanicsville when she was attacked by the homeowner’s pit-bull. According to a report by a local news source, the officer was responding to a call regarding a unconscious person inside a home. As the officer entered the home, the dog charged at her.
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The officer dodged the dog’s first attack, but it retreated and then came back a second time. In its second attack the dog managed to take away the officer’s baton and bite the officer in the foot. In response to her threatened safety, the officer fired a single shot at the animal, wounding it. The pit-bull then retreated.

The dog ran off after being injured, and police tried unsuccessfully to locate it. Neighbors told responding officers that this was not the first time that the dog had attacked someone.

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American_Pit_Bull_Terrier_-_Seated.jpgMaryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed a bill into law that overturns a controversial 2012 Maryland Court of Appeals decision regarding pit bull-type dogs. In Tracey v. Solesky, 50 A.3d 1075 (Md. App. 2012), the court modified the standard of negligence applied to attacks by pit bulls against humans, applying strict liability to dog owners and landlords who allow the dogs on premises they own or control. The decision met with substantial criticism from animal welfare advocates, landlords and other property owners, and many others. In addition to causing multiple evictions and surrenders of dogs to animal shelters, the decision may have made it more difficult for people to assert claims for damages by dogs that were not pit bulls. The new law applies the same standard of liability to all dog owners, regardless of the dog’s breed.

The Solesky case involved injuries to a young boy by a dog named Clifford. The boy required five hours of surgery and spent seventeen days in the hospital. His family sued the dog’s owner and the landlord, claiming that the landlord knew or had reason to know of the dog’s dangerous tendencies. The landlord presented several questions to the Court of Appeals, including whether harboring American Staffordshire Terriers, or “pit bulls,” is an “inherently dangerous activity” that would support the common law strict liability standard for a landlord. Id. at 1078.

The court ruled that “pit bulls” are “aggressive and vicious” by nature and expressly modified the common law negligence rule to hold landlords strictly liable for injuries caused by such dogs. Id. at 1079-80. A strict liability standard would apply if the plaintiff could prove that the landlord knew of the presence of a pit bull or cross-breed pit bull. A dissenting opinion by Judge Clayton Greene, Jr. noted the lack of expert opinion regarding pit bull temperament. It also noted the lack of a clear definition of “pit bull,” and the opinion of many experts that the term is “a generic category encompassing the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Pit Bull Terrier.” Id. at 1096. See also Weigel v. Maryland, 950 F.Supp.2d 811, 822 (D. Md. 2013).

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Towards the end of last month, Maryland legislators began the process of passing a bill to address whether or not pit bulls should continue to be singled out as inherently aggressive, thus impacting the potential liability that their owners face in a lawsuit. Last year, Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that pit bulls are dangerous by nature, a move that has angered some pit bull lovers and activists.

pit%20bull.jpgAccording to the terms of thebill all dogs would be considered inherently dangerous. If passed, a victim of a dog bite, regardless of breed, could sue the dog’s owner. Thus, the bill acts as a sort redefinition of the Court of Appeals’ decision, which ruled that pit bull owners and landlords would be held to strict liability standards for dog bites. Strict liability, in this context, means the owner would be liable without any additional evidence prior to the attack that a dog was dangerous. The new law thus creates the presumption that all dog owners, regardless of the breed, are presumed liable for attacks.

The law has run into some complications. The Senate took up a separate version of the bill that included a new provision requiring dog owners to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that their dog was not dangerous before the attack in order to prevail. Critics of this version argue that dog owners will be virtually incapable of rebutting a claim because the standard of proof is so high.

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With summer approaching, now is a good time to remind families that this is the time of year when the number of Maryland dog bite victims can go up. Aside from the fact that more kids and dogs are outside playing, researchers have suggested that dogs may be more likely to feel irritable when the weather is warm.

Recently, five children were rushed to the hospital after they were hurt in a Prince George’s County dog attack. They were getting onto a school bus when an American Bulldog came at them.

Getting hurt in a Maryland dog attack is never fun. Serious injuries can result—especially for young children or elderly victims. Rabies, facial injuries, tissue loss, lacerations, flesh wounds, nerve damage, crush injuries, disfigurement, scarring, sprains, factures, C. canimorsus infections, cellulitis or even death can occur. Dog bite incidents can also be very traumatic experiences and survivors may experience post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or other emotional injuries. These invisible injuries can have just as powerful an effect on the victim as the physical injuries that can result.

Dog owners should make sure that their pets are properly secured and trained so that they don’t inflict serious harm to others. This includes making sure that the animals are up to date on their rabies vaccines and when they are playing outside that there is either a fence around the yard to keep them contained or that they are securely leashed so that they don’t attack anyone.

Maryland Dog Bite Cases

It can be tough to prove liability and obtain compensation for one’s dog bite injuries in the state of Maryland. This is just one reason why working with an experienced Prince George’s County dog attack lawyer is the very important.

Dog attacks children on school bus, Washington Post, May 18, 2011
Dog Bite Risk for Kids Greatest in Summer, ABC News, March 9, 2009

Related Web Resources:

Cat and Dog Bites, Family Doctor
Animal Bites, Medscape

More Blog Posts:

7-Year-Old Girl Injured in Dundalk, Maryland Dog Attack Sustained Severe Facial Injuries, Maryland Accident Law Blog, March 26, 2011
Washington DC Dog Bite Injuries Can Be Grounds for Personal Injury, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 18, 2010
Maryland Dog Bites off Part of Anne Arundel County Police Officer’s Ear, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 3, 2008

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According to the mother of Amanda Mitchell, the 7-year-old girl will likely have to undergo several surgeries for the severe facial injuries she sustained when she was attacked by two American Bull Dogs earlier this month. The two dogs have been put down.

Baltimore County Police say that Mitchell was riding her bicycle when the two dogs got out of a neighbor’s yard and attacked her. On ABC2news.com, her mom Shelda Lambert is quoted as saying that her daughter’s “whole face ripped away.” Lambert also got hurt during the Maryland dog attack as she tried to fight the dogs off her daughter.

While no criminal charges are being filed against Tina Baker, the dog’s owner, she has been fined $3,600 over numerous citations.

Facial Injuries and Dog Bites

According to the California Surgical Institute, dog bites are the cause of about 44,000 facial injuries annually. 60% of the victims are usually small kids. Because of their small size and height, kids’ faces are easy for dogs to reach. Examples of dog bite injuries to the face:

• Fractures
• Eye damage
• Puncture wounds
• Nerve damage
• Jaw injuries
• Scarring
• Disfigurement

Each state has its own law when it comes to holding a dog owner liable for injuries inflicted by an animal. Dog owners can be held liable for a Maryland dog attack by a dog considered dangerous. A dog doesn’t need to have injured anyone before to fall under the dangerous dog category. Aggressive behavior alone can be a sign that the animal may pose a danger to others.

Dogs Attack Baltimore County Girl, WBALTV, March 13, 2011
Dog owners defend pit bulls after an attack on a 7-year-old girl, ABC, March 14, 2011
Related Web Resources:

Dog Bite Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dog Bites, Nolo
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Dog Bites off Part of Anne Arundel County Police Officer’s Ear, Maryland Accident Lawyer, November 3, 2008
Pit Bull Attacks 18-Month-Old Maryland Boy at Day Care Home in Aberdeen, Maryland Accident Lawyer, August 20, 2008
East Baltimore Woman Is Victim of Pit Bull Attack, Maryland Accident Lawyer, June 26, 2007

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The family of Charla Nash, the woman who was mauled by a chimpanzee, is suing the owner of the pet primate for personal injury. In their $50 million personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiffs are accusing Sandra Herold of recklessness and negligence due to her inability to control her 200-pound pet and subdue it if necessary. They also accuse Herold, 70, of inviting Nash to her home while knowing that the chimp, Travis, was agitated.

Nash, 55, had come to Herold’s home to help her lure the primate back into the residence. Their plan, however, went awry when Travis began mauling Nash. Travis also attacked one of the police officers who came to the scene. He eventually shot Travis dead. The officer was treated for trauma. Herold, who was also injured while trying to get Travis off Nash, was hospitalized for her injuries.

The 12-minute attack left Nash without her nose, eyelids, hands, and lips, crushed a number of her facial bones, and left her with brain damage and possible blindness. One month after the attack, she remains in critical condition.

In Maryland, an Anne Arundel County cop lost part of his ear on Thursday when he bitten by a neighbor’s dog. Officer Michael McDermott, who was off-duty, was rescuing the dog when the unfortunate incident happened.

McDermott had pulled the dog out from under a fallen tree when it slipped its snout from from a makeshift muzzle and bit off part of the police officer’s ear. The dog died soon after of its injuries. McDermott was treated for his injuries at Anne Arundel Medical Center.

According for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 4.7 million people are the victims of dog attacks each year, with nearly 800,000 of these bites serious enough to require medical care. 368,000 people a year will visit a hospital emergency room for treatment of injuries sustained in a dog attack or mauling.

Examples of serious dog bite injuries:

• Facial disfigurement
• Severed limbs
• Internal injuries
• Mental or emotional trauma
• Death

Depending on the victim’s injuries, reconstructive surgery and other painful procedures may be warranted. The victim may also have to undergo additional trauma, such as having to go out in public with a disfigured face or other severe scars that may not fully heal.

In Maryland, dog owners can be held liable for personal injury caused by their pets. However, the degree to which the owner knew or should have known that a dog could hurt someone is a factor in determining whether reasonable care was exercised to prevent the pet from causing injury.

Arundel officer loses part of ear to dog he pulled from under tree, Baltimore Sun, October 31, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Cat and Dog Bites, Family Doctor.org
Dog Bite Liability, Insurance Information Institute

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An 18-month boy sustained serious injuries on Monday after a pit bull bit him. The dog attack happened at the home of a day care provider in Aberdeen, Maryland.

Demetrious Allen had to undergo surgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center to treat deep bite wounds he sustained to his head after the dog tore his scalp. The animal let go of the child after the day care provider called his name. A neighbor applied pressure to the boy’s head while the provider contacted 911.

The day care provider says that she did not see the toddler go out the back door and into the yard. She was in the bathroom when the dog attack begun. Allen, who has been released from the hospital suffered no permanent brain damage. Police say the daycare home will not face criminal charges.

The dog, a male pit bull, belongs to the son of the day care provider. The dog had been penned in a fenced in yard. The day care provider told law enforcement officers that the animal had been with children before and had never attacked anyone.

This latest attack by a pit bull continues to raise concerns about whether the breed is dangerous to humans. In Baltimore, a one-year-old’s face was mauled by the family’s pit bull. Another 7-year-old was hospitalized after being bitten by a pit bull. In Prince George’s County, pit bulls have been banned following several attacks.

Premises Liability

Property owners and managers can be held liable for personal injury if he or she allowed an unsafe condition or hazard to exist on a premise that could have been repaired or eliminated and someone is injured as a result.

In Maryland, our Aberdeen dog bite lawyers represent victims that have been attacked by dogs on other people’s properties. We also represent clients injured in premises liability cases involving inadequate security, slip and fall accidents, products liability, and falling merchandise.

Toddler Released From Hospital After Dog Attack, WJZ.com, August 19, 2008
Boy in day care bitten by pit bull, BaltimoreSun.com, August 18, 2008

Related Web Resources:

Maryland Dog Bite Law, Animallaw.info
Premises Liability Overview, Justia

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