Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff who was mauled by a pack of four or five dogs. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the state imposes strict liability on the owners of dogs and, if so, whether the doctrine of comparative fault should be applied to take into account the plaintiff’s own negligence.
The case is important for Indiana dog bite victims to understand because it shows the type of analysis that courts conduct when viewing these types of claims. However, it is important to keep in mind that Indiana’s dog bite law is somewhat different from the law discussed in this case.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff and her friend were walking along a path on the friend’s property while hunting for squirrels. At some point, a pack of several dogs approached the plaintiff and attacked her. A passing motorcyclist saw the plaintiff was being attacked and intervened. As a result of the attack, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the dogs.
The case proceeded to trial, and the plaintiff asked the court to instruct the jury that owners of dogs are strictly liable when a dog bites another person. However, the court refused to give the requested instruction and instead instructed the jury that, in order to find for the plaintiff, the jury must determine that the defendant knew the plaintiff would be in the area or failed to exercise reasonable control over his dogs.
The jury determined that the dogs did belong to the defendant, but it did not find that the defendant knew of the plaintiff’s presence or was negligent in controlling the dogs. Thus, judgment was entered in favor of the defendant.
On appeal, the court reversed the decision, holding that owners of dogs are strictly liable when their dog attacks someone. However, the court also noted that the jury should take into account the plaintiff’s own negligence, and it should reduce the plaintiff’s total award amount by her percentage of fault.
Indiana’s Dog Bite Law
In Indiana, dog bite cases are viewed under two different standards. If the victim of the attack is a law enforcement officer or a postal employee, the owner will be held strictly liable. However, when a dog attacks an ordinary citizen, there must be a showing of negligence on the dog owner’s part in order to establish liability. This negligence most often comes in the form of knowing that the dog had a dangerous temperament or had previously bitten (or tried to attack) someone in the past.
Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a dog’s attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation from the owner of the animal. The dedicated Indiana personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience representing people injured in all types of accidents, including Indiana dog bite cases. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, call 888-532-7766 today.
Handyman’s Case Against Homeowner Dismissed Based on His Awareness of the Hazard That Caused His Injury, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 5, 2018
Court Affirms Dismissal of Premises Liability Case, Finding Hazard Was “Open and Obvious”, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 19, 2018