The O’Hara Law Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the family members of a woman who was killed by a pack of dogs. The dog owner’s insurance provider paid its policy limits of one million dollars to settle the claim. The woman was attacked while she was walking along the side of a road to a convenience store. The dog owner routinely allowed the dogs to escape from his fenced property. The O’Hara Law Firm located neighbors that reported that the dogs had shown signs of aggression prior to killing the woman.
The dog bite victim’s family members sued the dog owner under theories of negligence, negligence per se and strict liability. Under the theory of negligence, the dog owner would be liable if he breached a duty of care that caused the death of the woman. A dog owner has a duty to prevent his dogs from approaching another person unrestrained if he has reason to believe that the dog may bite. It is more difficult to prove that a dog owner is negligent if the dog has never shown any signs of aggression prior to biting the plaintiff.
Negligence per se is similar to negligence. However, the duty and breach are based on a statute that the dog owner violates. In dog bite cases, the common statute dog owners violate is a county or city ordinance that requires dog owners to keep their dogs restrained on a leash while in public. If a dog escapes through an open front door, open gate, hole in a fence, etc., the dog owner is in violation of the statute. The dog is not on a leash and in public. If the dog bites a person while it is running loose, the dog bite victim has a valid negligence per se claim against the dog owner. Harris County, Montgomery County and many other counties in Texas have “leash laws.”
Strict liability is the third tort that a dog bite victim may allege against a dog owner in a lawsuit. The elements of strict liability are that: (1) the dog bit the victim; (2) the dog has aggressive tendencies; and (3) the dog owner knew or should have known of the aggressive tendencies prior to the bite. Strict liability does not require the dog owner to breach a standard of care or behave in an unreasonable manner. If the dog owner knows that his dog is vicious, he is responsible when the dog bites someone no matter what efforts he may have taken to prevent an attack. This is the “one free bite rule.” Strict liability does not hold a dog owner responsible for the first bite if the dog owner had no idea the dog was dangerous.
The family members of the deceased dog bite victim had meritorious claims under all three theories of liability. The dogs were running loose in violation of the county leash law. The dogs had chased people in the past, and it was unlikely the dog owner never saw it occur. Instead of risking a large verdict far in excess of the insurance policy, the insurance company offered the policy limits early in the litigation.
The O’Hara Law Firm routinely represents victims of serious debilitating injuries. Personal injury law firms from multiple different states and Texas refer clients who have been injured by dog bites to the O’Hara Law Firm. The O’Hara Law Firm has experience representing children, adults, elderly, postal workers, Amazon drivers and others who have been bit by dogs. Call us today if you have been seriously injured by a dog. We represent clients on a contingency fee basis.