Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a dog bite case requiring the court to discuss an owner’s liability for their dog’s dangerous actions. The court ultimately concluded that the plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to survive a summary judgment challenge by the defendants, and the case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations. The rules discussed in the case may be of interest to plaintiffs in Maryland dog bite cases as well.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were neighbors with the defendants, who had recently permitted their adult son to move back into their home. The defendants’ son brought his pit bull, named Rocks, with him into the defendants’ home. The defendants permitted Rocks to stay with them as long as he was kept in a kennel in the back yard and not allowed to run loose.
While Rocks was at the defendants’ home, there were two instances when he acted aggressively. First, Rocks growled at the plaintiff husband when he came over to visit with the defendants. However, Rocks did not lunge at the plaintiff husband or bite him. The second instance was when Rocks growled aggressively at the defendant wife when she went to feed him. Notwithstanding these instances, the defendants permitted Rocks to remain at their home.
The following week, the plaintiff wife came over to visit the defendants. With the defendants’ permission, the plaintiff wife entered the defendants’ back yard through the side gate. At the time, Rocks was not in his kennel but was on a leash held by the defendants’ son. When Rocks noticed the plaintiff wife had entered the yard, he broke free and ran toward her, lunging at the wife and latching onto her leg.
The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendants. At issue in the case was whether the defendants had knowledge of Rocks’ propensity to attack unprovoked. The trial court determined that the defendants were not on notice of Rocks’ dangerous propensity because he had never bitten before. The appellate court affirmed the ruling, and the plaintiffs appealed.
On appeal to the state supreme court, the case was reversed in favor of the plaintiffs. The court held that, given the evidence presented, the plaintiffs’ case should proceed toward trial. The court explained that in order to be on notice of a dog’s dangerous propensity, a defendant’s dog does not necessarily need to have bitten someone in the past; it may be enough that the dog acted aggressively.
Here, the court held that Rocks’ actions in the weeks leading up to the attack on the wife indicated that Rocks may have been aggressive, and a jury would be reasonable in coming to this conclusion. Thus, the supreme court held that the lower courts improperly granted summary judgment to the defendants.
Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a Maryland dog bite, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While a defendant must generally be on notice that their animal has a propensity for violence, what exactly constitutes notice is a question without a firm answer. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims in a variety of claims, including dog bite cases. To schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss your case, call 410-654-3600.
More Blog Posts:
Court Answers Statute of Limitations Question in Recent Medical Malpractice Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 22, 2017.
Court Allows Plaintiff to Pursue Claim for Punitive Damages in Case Involving Parking Lot Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, December 15, 2017.