Occasionally, when we are about the business of living our lives, we encounter an animal whose behavior frightens us. Sometimes they just bark. Sometimes they bark and lunge toward us. Even when the animal is tethered to a tree or a post, a fact which we think indicates something about a dog’s temperament, we get a chill wondering what would happen if the dog could get to us. We imagine the animal tearing our flesh and perforating our skin with the teeth that look scary from many yards away. The dog is menacing. That fact cannot be disputed.
Freeman v. Farr 1987 – Historical Georgia Cases
A Georgia Appellate Court was called upon to determine whether or not the fact that a dog was chained indicated his owner’s knowledge of the animal’s propensity to attack.
A woman goes to the home of a local cabinetmaker to order a custom woodworking project. The cabinet man kept a shop at his home. He worked in his garage at the rear of his property. When the woman approached the garage she determined that the workman was not at home. As she moved around the garage, intending to cut across the field behind to a store beyond where her husband was waiting for her, she saw the cabinetmaker’s German shepherd dog.
The dog was chained to a post nearby. Nevertheless, he dog bit the woman’s hand and lunged at her, knocking her into the ditch. She sued the cabinetmaker under the vicious dog provisions in the law.
The trial court dismissed the case by granting the dog owner’s motion for summary judgment. This decision was based on the Georgia statute which protects dog owners from liability when their animal causes damages to others AND the owners did not know that the dog was dangerous, unless the dog went a liberty due to careless management (here, the dog was chained).
Plaintiffs alleged that the owners knew of the dog’s propensity toward aggressive behavior because of his size, his breed, and the fact that the owners kept him chained.
The appeals court upheld this Trial Court’s decision because the dog was, indeed, restrained. This preventative measure was taken in spite of the owner’s contention that they had never known the dog to behave aggressively, to bite, or to knock anybody into ditches.
The Case Underlines the “First Bite Rule” in Bright Red
In our State, the courts hold dogs to be harmless until/unless it’s proven otherwise. The statute depends upon dog owners to be aware of their animal’s behavior and take steps to secure the animal if his temperament is in question. Knowing your dog is dangerous and doing nothing about it can mean you’re liable for damages if he harms anybody.
Yes. It does appear that when you take a dog-bite case to court you may be in for a big surprise. If you think that injuries caused by somebody else’s vicious animal should be compensated, you may be disappointed.
How to Make Sure You Get The Compensation You Deserve
The answer to winning a dog-bite case is to come to court armed with all the right stuff. That armory begins with a well-seasoned, experienced, and effective personal injury lawyer. Not all lawyers are prepared to fight these fights – there are just too many ways in which the dog and his owner have the advantage.
Call the personal injury experts at The Millar Law Firm. We will be happy to review the facts in your case and help you know how you should proceed. We believe people should be responsible for their animals and the damage they cause. We also believe that the rest of us should not suffer the nightmares that come with the fear of dog attacks.