Articles Posted in Dog Bite Cases

In June, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion addressing whether the state’s dog bite statute, OCGA § 51-2-7, violates the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The case stems from an attack resulting in the plaintiff suffering serious injuries, as well as the death of their pet. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit seeking damages against the attacking dog’s owners. The plaintiff claimed that they were entitled to damages under OCGA § 51-2-7. The defendants filed a motion in limine, arguing that the statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On appeal, the defendants claimed that the statue creates an irrebuttable presumption that an owner is aware of a dog’s vicious propensity. They claimed that this presumption violates procedural due process. Upon review, the court first addressed its duty to construe a statute as constitutional, whenever possible. In cases where a statute has two potential meanings, courts typically interpret it as constitutional. Using those principles, the court analyzed the defendant’s contention.

OCGA § 51-2-7 explains :

When someone is injured in a Georgia accident, state law allows them to file a personal injury suit against the individual responsible and that persons insurance police will pay the damages. The law lays out the kinds of damages the jury can award including; lost wages, past and future medical expenses, and human damage (what we usually call pain and suffering.) On occasions where the begavior of the wrongdoer is so over the top, the court may also order the defendant to pay punitive damages. While rare, punitive damages serve to punish and disincentivize particularly reckless and malicious behavior. A plaintiff should be careful when requesting punitive damages, however, as they are rarely ordered.

A Georgia appellate court recently considered a dog bite case in which the injured person (the plaintiff) and their attorney  sought punitive damages for outrageous facts. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff in the case was a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and was delivering packages to the defendants’ front door. As she approached, the defendants’ youngest son came out to accept the packages. As the plaintiff walked back towards her truck, she was attacked by the defendants’ dog, a 57-pound boxer (named Roy Jones Jr.). The dog bit her leg, she kicked him off, and he charged at her again and bit her arm, refusing to let go. At this point, the defendants’ oldest son came out to try and pull the dog off. The plaintiff finally got her arm free and ran back into the truck.

The plaintiff sustained severe injuries as a result of this attack. She required physical therapy for both her arm and her leg, and she began a procedure to reduce the visibility of the scarring, but ultimately stopped because it was so painful. This left her with clearly visible scars. She also underwent counseling due to nightmares and an intense fear of dogs after the attack. Because of this, she filed a personal injury suit against the defendants, asking for damages to cover her medical expenses and pain and suffering as well as punitive damages.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court released an opinion in a Georgia dog bite lawsuit discussing the element of causation, as well as the type of evidence that a plaintiff must present to establish liability against an out-of-possession landlord. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence indicating that her injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant landlord’s negligence actions.

The Facts

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was on a walk with her dogs a few blocks from her home when two pit bulls approached her. The approaching dogs initially began to quarrel with the plaintiff’s dogs, but when the plaintiff tried to separate the animals one of the large dogs knocked her to the ground and began to attack her. Thankfully, a passerby called the police, and officers were able to stop the attack. However, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the dogs’ owners. However, the plaintiff later added the landlord as an additional defendant, claiming that the landlord was negligent in failing to keep his property safe. This case involves the plaintiff’s case against the landlord.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an important opinion in a Georgia dog bite case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages was supported by sufficient evidence to submit the claim to a jury. Translating the legalese, the Court of Appeals said that if there was a prior incident where the dog had been aggressive and the owner could not control it, then the victim in the second incident could have the jury consider punishment damages.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff agreed to take her son’s five-pound Yorkshire terrier to a local dog park. As the plaintiff approached the fenced-in dog park, she noticed that the defendant was in the park with her two dogs. The defendant’s dogs were 75 pounds and 40 pounds. Hesitant to let the dogs play together, the plaintiff asked the defendant when she was planning on leaving. The defendant just shrugged her shoulders.

The plaintiff waited outside the dog park for the defendant to leave. Eventually, the defendant leashed her dogs and began to exit the park. However, as she did so, the two dogs got away from her and attacked both the plaintiff and her son’s dog. The plaintiff was seriously injured as a result of the attack, and her son’s dog was killed. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking punitive damages.

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