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 :