Articles Posted in Animal Injury

In a 2017 Georgia dog bite case, a woman suffered serious injuries as a result of a dog attack. She and her husband sued the owners of the dogs and their landlord, claiming her injuries were due to the dog owners’ failure to stop their dogs from leaving their fenced backyard and the landlord’s failure to keep the gate latch in good repair.

The case arose when the landlord leased a home to a couple who moved in with their three kids and a dog. The home had a big backyard that was enclosed by a wooden fence. Months after the couple moved into the house, someone taking care of the lawn broke the front gate latch. The husband told the landlord the latch had been broken, but the latch was never repaired, and the husband and wife didn’t follow up. Instead, he secured the gate by tying it with a dog leash and placed weights and a cement block at the bottom. In spite of these precautions, the family’s dog escaped from the home and was hit by a car and killed.

The couple adopted two Pit Bull Terrier puppies that they kept in the yard during the day and in the basement overnight. The dogs didn’t show aggressive tendencies, and they played with the couple’s kids and nieces.

What happens where the dog owner is careful and has the dog on a leash but it lunges and bites? A recent Georgia dog bite decision arose after the plaintiff was bitten by a dog and sued the dog’s owner for negligence per se and other causes of action.  The key issue is whether the dog owner complies with the local laws. In this case the local law required the owner to keep the animal under control and the plaintiff argued that is exactly what they did not due. The trial court gave an automatic win to the plaintiff on summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

The case arose when a six-foot-tall woman was walking her 80-pound dog in the park one summer day. The dog was on a two-foot leash. The plaintiff was supervising a delivery of equipment for a concert in the park. When the woman and her dog walked toward the cab where he was, the dog lunged and bit him. The woman didn’t see the plaintiff until after he was bitten.

She would later testify at deposition that she’d pulled the dog away after the bite, but she couldn’t restrain the dog during the moment that he lunged. She argued she was able to physically restrain the dog, but the dog had acted instinctively, quickly, and unexpectedly. She testified that the dog hadn’t acted like this before. However, a police officer issued her an arrest citation for violating a city ordinance.

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As a state that serves as home to many large expanses of farmland, Georgia has many unique laws reflecting this heavily rural character. Among these interesting laws is the Georgia Injuries from Equine or Llama Activities Act (“Equine Act”), which is codified at O.C.G.A. § 4-12-1 et seq. Although this is clearly not the most commonly invoked statute, it remains in the books, and as the Georgia Court of Appeals recently learned, it is among those laws still ripe for litigation.

The case, Gadd v. Warwick, arose from an accident at a summer camp. The plaintiff in this action was 19 at the time of the accident and was one of the camp’s counselors. Among his duties as a counselor was leading children on “trail rides.” On May 30, 2011, a supervisor decided that some of the staff, including the plaintiff, should take a trail ride with the horses to get the horses acclimated to the route to be taken with the camp attendees. During this tester ride, the horse on which the plaintiff was riding jumped—rather than stepped—over a 12-inch-wide stream and then reared up on his hind legs. As a result, both the plaintiff and the horse lost their balance. The plaintiff fell from the saddle onto the ground, and the horse then landed on him. The plaintiff sustained an injury as a result.

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In an earlier post, we looked at an intriguing Court of Appeals decision in which the Court ruled that when a dog had a non-existent or nominal fair market value, the damages recoverable for the negligent death of a pet were limited to the actual value of the pet, which included economic damages such as veterinary expenses. However, in a recent opinion, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed, in part, the Court of Appeals’ limitations on the appropriate measure of damages.

As a reminder, this case arose from the the death of a mixed-breed dachshund who was owned by the plaintiffs. The dachshund’s death coincided with the dog’s boarding at an Atlanta kennel. The dachshund had been boarded at the kennel for 10 days, along with the plaintiff’s mixed-breed Labrador retriever, who had been prescribed an anti-inflammatory medication. The plaintiff had given personnel at the kennel the medication along with instructions detailing how it should be administered to the Labrador retriever. Shortly after being returned to the plaintiff, the dachshund suffered acute renal failure, which the plaintiff alleged was caused by the kennel’s staff negligently administering the medication intended for the Labrador retriever to the much smaller dachshund. The dachshund underwent various veterinary interventions over the next nine months but ultimately died.

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In a recent and highly anticipated decision, Eshleman v. Key, the Supreme Court of Georgia addressed an interesting issue regarding the breadth of official immunity doctrine. Specifically at issue in Eshleman was whether official immunity shielded a police officer from liability when her K-9 dog escaped from her yard and allegedly attacked a child. In an unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Georgia concluded that official immunity did in fact shield the officer from liability.

The police officer at issue in this case is employed by an Atlanta area law enforcement agency as both a police officer and dog handler. As part of her job, the officer is responsible for the care  of a police dog. When not on duty, the officer keeps the dog at her home, which is near the home of the plaintiff. The alleged attack at issue occurred in 2011. One day in November of that year, the officer placed the dog in a kennel outside her home but did not adequately secure the kennel.  Consequently, the dog absconded from the  yard and encountered the plaintiff’s then 11-year-old son. The plaintiff alleged that the dog attacked his son, which caused serious injury to the child. The plaintiff sued the officer, who moved for summary judgment, arguing that official immunity shielded her from liability. The trial court denied the motion, and the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s denial. The Supreme Court of Georgia, however, reversed.

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In a recent decision, Barking Hound Village, LLC v. Monyak, the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed an interesting question arising from a lawsuit brought against a kennel by the owners of a deceased daschund. On appeal, one of the questions the court needed to answer was whether the trial court erred in its ruling on the appropriate measure of damages for the loss of the dog.

The principal defendant in the case, Barking Hound Village, is a kennel located in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2012, the plaintiffs in this case boarded two of their dogs, the aforementioned daschund and a mixed-breed labrador retriever, at Barking Hound for about 10 days. The evidence showed that, while under Barking Hound’s care, the plaintiff’s daschund was administered toxic doses of a medication that had been prescribed to the labrador retriever. The medication had been left at the kennel by the plaintiffs along with instructions that it was supposed to be administered to the labrador retriever. Three days after retrieving their dogs, the labrador was diagnosed with acute renal failure that ultimately led to its death about nine months later. The plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the kennel, alleging various forms of negligence as well as fraud. Barking Hound moved for summary judgment on all the claims, but the trial court denied the motion except as to the fraud claim. Both the defendant and plaintiff appealed the various summary judgment rulings.

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