Georgia Court Awards Punitive Damages in Dog Bite Case


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.

Normally cases involving dogbites where the dog had previously attacked other people tend to get settled. We don’t know what the offers were prior to trial but it is likely that the defense was undervaluing the case from the start and so it had to be tried to a jury.

At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her $75,000 in damages and another $50,000 in punitive damages. The defendants appealed the punitive damages.

In Georgia, the court stated, punitive damages are reserved for cases where it is proven that the “defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression,” or that the defendant intentionally disregarded the consequences their actions would have on others. The court found that, because the dog in question had bitten and injured multiple others beforehand, and the defendants did not adequately address the dog’s behavior or attempt to stop it, the punitive damages were appropriate. The judgment of the trial court was affirmed, and the plaintiff received $125,000 in damages.

Have You Been Bitten By a Dog in Georgia?

If you or a loved one has recently been attacked by another’s dog, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your injuries through a Georgia dog bite lawsuit. Contact the law office of Christopher Simon to discuss your case at no-cost to explore your options. With years of experience representing Georgia dog bite victims in personal injury lawsuits, you can trust your case is in good hands with our firm. To learn more, call today at 404-259-7635.

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