Last month, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued a written opinion in a dog bite case, explaining which elements a plaintiff must prove in order to be successful. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss when a trial judge can make a determination, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff’s case is insufficient. Ultimately, in this case, the court held that the plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to survive the defendants’ summary judgment challenge.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was bitten by a neighbor’s dog while she was visiting the neighbor in their back yard. The defendants had only had the dog for a little over a week at the time of the attack. Prior to the attack, the dog had snapped at humans twice, once at one of the defendants and once at the plaintiff’s husband. On the day of the attack, the plaintiff entered the defendants’ back yard and approached the dog, which was on a leash. The plaintiff extended her hand gently toward the dog, and the dog lunged at her. As the plaintiff tried to get away, the dog latched onto her leg. The plaintiff and her husband filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendants.
Elements of a Dog Bite Case
In Georgia, a dog bite plaintiff must prove several elements in order to be successful. First, the plaintiff must show that the dog was “of a dangerous nature.” However, proving that the dog has a propensity for being aggressive or dangerous is not enough. A plaintiff must also prove that the defendant owner had knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. This was the contested element in the case discussed above.
The Parties’ Arguments and the Court’s Decision
The defendants claimed that they had only been in possession of the dog for a little over a week, and they had no idea of whether the dog was dangerous. The plaintiffs responded by pointing to the evidence that the dog had snapped at humans twice in the short time the defendants had the dog.
The court determined that the plaintiffs’ evidence was sufficient to survive the defendants’ summary judgment challenge. The court explained that once a plaintiff presents some evidence that the owners knew the dog was dangerous, the case should be submitted to a jury to determine if the owner’s knowledge was sufficient to establish liability. Here, the lower court dismissed the plaintiffs’ case, taking the decision away from the jury. This, the court held, was not appropriate.
Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?
If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a dog bite attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important to keep in mind, however, that in many cases, the defendant’s homeowners’ insurance company will defend the lawsuit, potentially making your road to recovery much more difficult. The skilled premises liability attorneys at McAleer Law have extensive experience handling all types of Georgia personal injury cases, including dog bite cases. Call 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today.
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Long Arm of the Law Does Not Reach Far Enough For Man Who Lost Use of Arm After Cancer Surgery, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, March 31, 2017.