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An Unfortunate Accident For All Involved: Georgia Dog Owners Found Not Responsible When a Child Was Bitten After Falling on Dog

Published March 3, 2018 by Ivory Roberson

Sometimes the interactions between dogs and children can result in injuries to each. In Custer v. Coward, 293 Ga. App. 316 (2008), a child accidentally launched herself off a back-yard trampoline and landed on a family pet. The dog not only bit the young girl but refused to release her for several minutes.

The girl’s family brought a civil action for compensatory and punitive damage against the dog’s owners. They said that because the dog had previously growled at the girl, the owners should have known that the dog might bite. Furthermore, the dog suffered from Wobbler’s Syndrome, a sometimes painful leg condition that can cause aggression due to pain. The victim’s parents argued that this should have alerted the owners that the dog could become dangerously aggressive.

The trial court granted summary judgment – a decision made by the judge and not the jury to dismiss the case – in favor of the dog’s owners because the dog had never demonstrated aggressive behavior previously and was, therefore, protected by Georgia’s ‘first bite rule’ also known as the “one free bite” rule.  (This is the belief held by the State of Georgia that dogs are harmless by nature. In order to collect damages for injuries done by a dog, the plaintiff must first prove that the dog’s owners were previously aware of the dog’s aggressive proclivities and were, therefore, negligent in their management of the animal.)

The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s decision and found that the dog’s owners were not at fault for the way in which the dog was managed since he had not bitten or attacked anybody before. Growls, as it works out, are not the same as bites and are not evidence of aggressive behavior.  This dog won the day in court.

In any dog bite litigation it is essential that your attorney thoroughly understands the fine points of personal injury law as it relates to dogs. A case that seems straightforward and “plain as paint” may not be when viewed in light of this law.

Before you bring any litigation that involves a dog attack, speak with the personal injury specialists at The Millar Law Firm. Because we handle so very many dog bite cases, we know our way around this difficult and surprising field of law. Our expertise can make the difference in winning or walking away empty handed in a dog bite case.

Call our office today and allow us to evaluate the facts in your case. We will do so at no charge to you in order that you may know the best way to proceed. You can waste lots of time and money in pursuit of liability claims in cases like this unless you have the help of specialists. Let us help you.

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