Earlier this month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued an interesting opinion involving the potential liability of a government entity in a dog bite case. The case required the court to determine if a city may be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries sustained after being attacked by a dog when the plaintiff had made the city aware of the dog and the dangers it posed. The court ultimately decided that a jury should be able to decide if the city should be held liable.
The plaintiff’s husband was viciously attacked by several dogs and later passed away due to his injuries. The dogs were not in any way owned or managed by the city. However, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death claim against the city’s dog warden, claiming that the warden was reckless in failing to address the dangerous animals.
Evidently, the plaintiff had called 911 to report the dogs on at least one prior occasion. In response to her calls, the dog warden told the plaintiff that “the county would take care of it.” The plaintiff also presented evidence that the dog warden knew of the dogs’ dangerous temperament. Specifically, the dog warden had been out to the owners’ home, and one of the dogs that attacked the plaintiff’s deceased husband jumped on the warden’s car. The warden later issued the owner a citation for failing to keep the dog caged or chained.
The city argued that it should not be held liable based on the “public duty” doctrine. The public duty doctrine prevents a government entity from being held liable for harm caused to one person through the violation of a duty that is owed to the public as a whole. Essentially, the city acknowledged that it owed a duty to all inhabitants to keep them safe, and it failed to do so. However, the city argued it should not be liable because it did not owe the plaintiff a special duty.
The court disagreed, finding that a special relationship was created between the city and the plaintiff. The court held that the plaintiff’s previous calls, as well as the reassurances she was given that “the county would take care of” the problem, created a special relationship whereby the city had a duty to protect the plaintiff and her husband. By failing to take appropriate actions, the court held that a jury may determine that the city should be held liable for the plaintiff’s husband’s death.
Have You Been Injured in a Dog Attack?
If you or a loved one has recently been attacked by a dog or another dangerous domestic animal, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. In some situations, such as the case discussed above, liability may extend beyond the owner of the animal. To learn more about liability in Indiana dog bite cases, and how you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today.
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