Court Allows Dog Bite Case to Proceed to Trial for Determination of Whether Defendants Knew the Dog Was Aggressive

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a dog bite case requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper to dismiss the case based on a lack of evidence of the defendant’s knowledge that the dog that bit the plaintiff was dangerous. Ultimately, the court determined that the lower court should not have dismissed the case because there was sufficient evidence to show that the dog’s owners may have had knowledge of the dog’s aggressive and dangerous nature.

Sleeping DogThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were neighbors with the defendants and would routinely visit over at each other’s homes. About a week prior to the incident giving rise to this case, the defendants’ son moved back into their home, and they allowed him to bring his dog, Rocks. During Rocks’ first week with the defendants, he snapped at one of the defendants once while she was feeding him. Rocks also snapped once at the plaintiff’s husband while he was over visiting the defendants.

A few days later, the plaintiff came to visit the defendants. She entered through the backyard gate and saw the defendants’ son had Rocks on a leash. The plaintiff approached Rocks and extended her arm gently, and Rocks lunged at her. Rocks latched onto the plaintiff’s arm. The plaintiff attempted to run away, but Rocks then latched onto her leg. Eventually, the plaintiff was able to get away, but she sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack.

The plaintiff and her husband filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendants, arguing that the defendants knew about Rocks’ propensity to be aggressive but failed to restrain him accordingly. The defendants responded that there was no evidence that Rocks had previously bitten anyone, and they were not aware of his propensity to bite unprovoked. The trial court agreed with the defendants and granted their motion for summary judgment.

The Plaintiffs Successfully Appeal

The plaintiffs appealed the lower court’s ruling, arguing that the fact that Rocks had snapped twice in the one week since the defendants had him in their possession was sufficient to establish their knowledge that he could be dangerous. The court agreed, explaining that in order to succeed in their claim, the plaintiffs would need to prove that the dog was dangerous and that the defendants had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Here, the court explained, there was sufficient evidence for a jury to determine that the defendants were on notice, pointing to the evidence of the two times Rocks had snapped in the past. Thus, it was an error for the lower court to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Have You Been a Victim of a Dog Bite?

If you or a loved one has recently been bitten or attacked by a dog or another animal, you may be entitled to monetary compensation to help you recoup the costs associated with your injuries. The skilled dog bite attorneys at the Indiana law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience handling all types of personal injury matters. Call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today. Calling is free, and you will not be billed for our services unless we are able to help you recover compensation for your injuries.

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Party’s Failure to Raise an Issue at Trial Will Almost Certainly Prevent Appellate Review of That Issue, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 27, 2017