When it comes to determining liability in dog bite cases, states employ a variety of different approaches. Most commonly, states will either apply a “strict liability” standard or a “negligence” standard. Many states also require a plaintiff to prove that the dog’s owner knew of an animal’s aggressive tendencies.
In Florida dog bite cases, a dog’s owner is held strictly liable for injuries caused by their animal, regardless of the dog’s history or aggression. A recent case illustrates the difference between a strict liability standard and a negligence standard in dog bite cases.
The Case Facts
The defendant’s dog bit the plaintiff as he approached the animal with an extended hand. As it turns out, the dog had bitten several other people, and had drawn blood during two of those incidents. The dog was usually kept confined within the defendant’s backyard, and on the fence outside the defendant’s home there was a sign stating “Beware of Dog.”
The case proceeded to trial under both negligence and strict liability theories. However, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his negligence claims, moving only on the strict liability claims. Under the state’s strict liability scheme, the owner of a dog could be liable regardless of the owner’s negligence if the owner knew of the dog’s tendency to attack or bite.
The court, however, believed the plaintiff’s claim to be one of negligence and instructed the jury accordingly. The jury determined that the defendant was not negligent, and judgment was entered in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the lower court’s decision was reversed based on the court’s failure to correctly apply the strict liability law. The appellate court explained that the court should have had the jury determine if the dog had vicious tendencies and, if so, if the defendant knew of those tendencies.
Florida’s Dog Bite Statute
Florida dog bite law is contained in Florida Statutes section 767.04, and is quite favorable to plaintiffs. The statute provides that a dog’s owner is liable to anyone who is injured by their animal “regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.”
To recover under this theory, the plaintiff must be legally present where the bite occurred. This includes, however, being invited onto the defendant’s property. Additionally, a defendant’s liability can be reduced by any negligence on the plaintiff’s part, for example, if the plaintiff was taunting the dog when it attacked. Finally, if the dog’s owner has posted a sign stating “Bad Dog” on their property, then strict liability will not apply, and the plaintiff must show that the defendant was negligent to establish liability.
Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?
If you have recently been bitten or attacked by a dog, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida dog bite lawsuit. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana have decades of experience bringing a wide variety of cases on behalf of their injured clients. We understand the substantive law that governs Florida dog bite claims, and what we must prove to succeed in your case. To learn more, call 800-753-5529 to schedule your free consultation today.
See Additional Blog Posts:
In Drunk Driving Accidents, Bar May Also be Responsible, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, October 9, 2018.
The Importance of Uninsured Motorist Protection in Florida, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, published October 1, 2018.