Everybody has heard the blood-curdling tales of dog attacks and fatal maulings where unsuspecting victims are injured or killed by a vicious dog. What you may not know is that even otherwise mild-mannered dogs can sometimes get themselves into deep, hot water with Georgia’s judicial system. A dog that does not bite but does cause injuries to others can be brought to the bar if his exuberant behavior leads to injury.
The law in our State holds that dogs are generally harmless creatures and gives the animals the benefit of the doubt in almost all cases. If the dog’s owner knows that the dog has bitten before, or has been aggressive toward others, then the owner can be held liable. The entire case turns on whether or not it can be proven that he was aware that his animal’s behavior could be injurious to others.
Over 30 years ago an exuberant dog jumped on a neighbor causing him to lose his balance and fall. His fall caused him some injuries for which he sued asking for damages.
Our pedestrian plaintiff was probably surprised when the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the dog’s owners. He appealed the trial court’s verdict saying that the case should have been heard by a jury since there was a valid question about whether or not the dog’s owner knew the animal was dangerous.
On appeal the court reviewed the pleadings and other documents the trial court saw. The court observed that the dog had previously jumped upon his owners, but that the dog’s rambunctious behavior had never caused anybody to fall or become injured. The dog’s owners had no idea that the dog was dangerous in any way.
On the weight of this evidence which was affirmed in a sworn affidavit by the dog owners, the appellate court found that the trial court was correct in issuing an order for summary judgment in favor of the dog that had never been known to jump up on strangers or to cause injury as a result of his ‘frolicsome’ behavior.
The appellate court has, in the past, held that the owner of an animal must be aware of the dog’s viciousness or a particular behavior (like jumping or lunging) that could possibly cause injury. The trial court and subsequently, the appellate court, held that because a dog had previously jumped up on members of its family in excitement did not mean that the same animal will jump on strangers. The behavior, then, doesn’t represent a “pattern of behavior” that would alert an owner of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Therefore, the summary judgment was appropriate.
When an advocate usually practices any other kind of law he or she may not be aware of the many pit-falls that exist within a personal injury case. Technicalities in personal injury law in general and dog attacks in particular lie in wait to trap the lawyer who is unfamiliar.
If you or someone you know has been injured by a vicious dog – or even a dog whose bad manners can cause injuries to those who come into contact with it – we urge you not to give up on your case just yet. Allow the personal injury specialists at The Millar Law Firm to review the facts in your case. If there is a case to be brought, we are the ones who can win it. We deal almost daily with dog attack cases. We know how to win them. Not every lawyer does.
We offer a free case evaluation in order to give you the best chance of prevailing in court if you move forward with your action. Call us today.