Trying the All-Too-Common Dog Bite Case

In 2009 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the incidence rate of dog bites and found that an estimated 4.5 million dog bites that occur annually nationwide result in over 300,000 hospital emergency department (ED) visits. An ED visit following a dog bite is on average about 50% more expensive than for any other reason.
 
A 1932 California law, Civil Code section 3342, holds dog owners strictly liable – meaning that an injured plaintiff is not required to prove any knowledge or mental state on the part of the dog owner – for injuries caused by the dog when the person injured was attacked in a public place “or lawfully in a private place.” Liability for a dog attack may extend to persons other than the dog’s owner, but they are not covered by the strict liability statute, and a plaintiff therefore would have to prove additional facts to recover damages from such third parties. For example, a landlord or the dog’s “keeper” may be liable for injuries caused by a dog, but only when he or she knew, actually or constructively, of the dog’s dangerous or vicious propensities.
 
Dog bite cases often involve additional thorny legal issues such as disputed insurance coverage, comparative fault, or assumption of risk, not to mention practical concerns at trial with jurors potentially imagining themselves sitting in the defendant’s seat. Although the majority of dog bite cases Janssen Malloy LP takes involve representing the injured individual, in a handful of cases we are retained to represent the dog’s owner, or a homeowner accused of knowing about the dog’s dangerous character. Having experience on both sides of the case is invaluable, as are the decades of expertise we bring to bear, including arguing a dog bite case before the California Supreme Court.

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