Dog Bite Lawyer: Loose Dogs Can Mean Strict Liability for Injuries.

dog bite lawyer

Loose dogs can mean strict liability.

More advice from a dog bite lawyer. A few days ago, we posted about dog bites that occur on the property of the dog owner and how, in order for the dog owner to be held liable, the injured person must show that the dog owner had some kind of notice of the dog’s dangerous tendencies.  But what happens if, for example, you are walking down the sidewalk or enjoying a run in the park and a dog attacks you? What if your own dog breaks loose, runs away from home, and later bites a stranger down the street?

The Tennessee dog bite statute ( Tenn. Code Ann. 44-8-413) treats dog bites differently depending on where they occur.  Injuries that occur when a dog is running loose in a public place result in the strict liability of the dog owner.   Dog owners have a duty to keep their dogs under reasonable control at all times and to keep them from “running at large.” “Running at large” essentially means the dog is loose and uncontrolled either on public property or on someone else’s private property. Unlike in cases where a dog bite occurs on the dog owner’s property, liability for a dog “running at large” does not hinge upon whether the dog’s owner knew or should have known of any dangerous tendencies of the dog.  As usual, there are exceptions to this general rule, such as when the injured person harasses or provokes the dog.

Important Points to Consider

  • It is a huge risk to allow your dog to run free without a leash. If your dog bites or injures another person while running free and uncontrolled, you will most likely be held liable, even if your dog has never injured or bitten anyone before. Your insurance company may or may not assign a dog bite lawyer to represent you.

 

  • If you are bitten by a dog who is running loose, you are probably entitled to compensation for your injuries by the dog’s owner. Call a dog bite lawyer.  Don’t be lulled into feeling sorry for the dog’s owner, who may be frantically and actively trying to regain control of the dog. The owner will probably be very apologetic, will be very upset, and will tell you that the dog has never bitten anyone before.  None of this matters, though. Most likely, the dog’s owner will have applicable liability insurance. You should not be saddled with medical expenses you incurred through no fault of your own and the Tennessee legislature has provided you with the means to achieve fair compensation.  Business is business, even if you are a dog lover yourself.

 

I am a Dog Bite Lawyer if you need help.

If you have questions about a dog bite or other injuries caused by a dog or other animal, please call me or one of the other lawyers at Wiseman Bray PLLC at 901-372-5003.  We have experience representing both dog owners and people who have been injured by dogs.

dog bite lawyer at wiseman bray memphis, erin shea

Erin Shea, One of the Dog Bite Lawyers at Wiseman Bray PLLC

Tennessee Dog Bite Cases: No “Big Dog” Exception

dog bite lawyer, dog bite attorney, dog bite casesOur firm handles Tennessee dog bite cases. In the recent case of Moore v. Gaut, the Tennessee Court of Appeals interpreted Tennessee’s 2007 dog bite statute and declined to create a “big dog exception” to the rule generally limiting a dog owner’s liability.

In 1914, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a dog owner is only liable for injuries caused by a dog if the owner knew about the dog’s vicious tendencies.  In fact, contrary to popular belief, there never has been any rule that an injured person prove that a dog previously bit someone before he could recover, although that fact would certainly help to show that a dog owner knew about the tendency of his dog.  In 2007, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Tenn. Code Ann. § 44-8-413 to address and tweak the law of injuries caused by dogs.  That statute created a distinction between whether injuries by a dog bite occurred on or off the dog owner’s property, for example where a dog is running loose in a neighborhood.  When a dog bite occurs on the dog owner’s property, the statute clearly retains and codifies the common law requirement that the injured person prove that the dog’s owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities.   By comparison, when a dog is running loose, there is no such requirement.

So what’s the big deal about big dogs?

Nothing according to the Tennessee Court of Appeals. In Moore v. Gaut, the plaintiff came to repair a satellite dish on the defendant dog owner’s property.  The defendant had a large Great Dane, which was kept in a fenced-in area of the yard. The plaintiff did not enter the fenced-in portion of the yard where the dog was; however, while the plaintiff was walking beside the fence, the dog jumped up, leaned over the fence, and bit the plaintiff’s face.  In his defense, the dog owner filed a motion for summary judgment (i.e. dismissal) by submitting a sworn affidavit stating that the dog had never bitten or attacked anyone. Since the dog bite occurred on the dog owner’s property, the Court of Appeals agreed that the dog owner was not liable because the owner had been able to show that he had no knowledge or notice that the dog had ever bitten or attacked anyone. The plaintiff, unable to dispute that testimony, urged the Court of Appeals to adopt a “big dog exception” to the rule. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that because Great Danes are an extraordinarily large breed, that the dogs are naturally dangerous based on their size, weight, and strength and that this alone should place the owner on notice of a dangerous propensity.

The Court of Appeals didn’t bite, and declined to carve out an exception for big dogs.

Moral of the Story for Tennessee Dog Bite Cases

If you are bitten or injured by a dog on the dog owner’s property, it is critical to investigate and discover whether the owner knew of the dog’s vicious or dangerous tendencies. That does not necessarily mean that you have to prove that the dog has bitten or injured someone before, but rather some knowledge of the owner of mischievous or potentially rough or dangerous behavior that might cause an injury.

We Represent Dog Bite Victims.

We accept dog bite cases. Hopefully you will never be injured by a dog, but if you are, you need a good lawyer on your side because the proof you need isn’t likely to be the sort of thing the dog owner, or his insurance company, is likely to volunteer. Our team at Wiseman Bray PLLC can help you properly investigate your claim and get the information you need in order to determine if your injury is compensable under Tennessee dog bite law. If you need help, call us at 901-372-5003.