Court Holds that Dog Owner May Be Liable Even if Dog Never Touched Plaintiff

Dog owners have to be vigilant with their dogs. That is because if a dog bites another person, owners are often liable for damages. One court recently found that an owner may be liable even if a dog never touches the other person.

dog-1401768In a recent case, Grammer v. Lucking, a court considered whether or not a dog owner could be held liable when an owner’s dogs ran toward a pedestrian who then fell over and was injured. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiffs were walking near the defendants’ home when the defendants’ dogs ran toward the plaintiffs, barking and growling. One dog was on a chain, and the other was free. In backing away from the dogs, one of the plaintiffs stumbled and fell. However, neither of the dogs ever touched either of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs sued the dog owners for damages relating to the victim’s injuries. The applicable law made owners liable for damages caused by their dogs “killing, wounding, injuring, worrying, or chasing any person or persons.” The plaintiffs argued that the owners were liable for damages caused by their dog “chasing” or “injuring” the pedestrian. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants. However, that state’s supreme court reversed the trial court’s decision because it said that the trial court had to consider every relevant definition of the words “chase” and injure.”

The state supreme court found that the trial court’s definition of the word “chase” was too narrow. The trial court interpreted the word to mean to “catch” the plaintiffs, which the dogs were not trying to do. However, there was a separate question of whether the dogs were acting playfully or mischievously in chasing the pedestrian. In addition, the court also failed to consider whether the dogs injured her, even if they did not chase her. Accordingly, the case was sent back to the trial court to look into the case further.

Dog Bite Laws in Indiana

In Indiana, if a dog bites a person without being provoked, the owner of the dog may be liable for the person’s injuries and possibly other damages. This may be true even if the dog had never behaved in a vicious manner before, or if the owner never knew that the dog had acted viciously before. The legal “owner” of the dog can include not just the dog’s actual owner, but also anyone who “possesses, keeps, or harbors” a dog. In addition, the owner may be subject to criminal charges if the dog is not restrained, the dog enters another person’s property, and the dog bites someone, resulting in a bodily injury.

Have You Been Injured by an Animal?

If you have been bitten or injured by a dog or another animal, you should speak with an experienced Indiana personal injury attorney. Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson LLP has dedicated and experienced attorneys who are committed to helping you. We provide quality legal services based on our commitment to high standards of professionalism, ethics, client service, and compassion. We are a nationally acclaimed personal injury law firm with a strong history of vigorously representing our clients. If you would like to speak to a lawyer about your case, call today for your free consultation at (888) 532-7766.

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Indiana Legislature Proposes Increase in Medical Malpractice Cap, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, January 20, 2016