Animal Control Entitled to Immunity from Dog Bite Claim

City fails to enforce Animal Control Ordinance

In February, 2007, a personal injury Complaint was filed against Animal Control and the City of Evansville (City Defendants) for personal injuries when minor plaintiff, Shawn Davis, was attacked and severely bitten by a 60-pound Rottweiler while playing in his neighborhood. Six-year-old Shawn Davis sustained severe injuries to his arm and back.

The Complaint alleged the City Defendants failed to protect young Davis by not enforcing its Animal Control Ordinance. A witness to the incident claimed in her testimony that she had called Animal Control several times during the week before the incident to report a very vicious dog running the neighborhood. This dog was known to the witness as ‘Romeo’, a dog she had seen dropped off and picked up from the corner house repeatedly for several weeks prior to the incident. Six months prior to Davis’ injury, Animal Control had received a report of a Rottweiler named Romeo biting a child.

Lower court finds city was entitled to immunity in case involving dog bite injuries

The lower Court found that the defendants were entitled to law enforcement immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.  The Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) provides immunity to governmental entities for loss resulting from failure to enforce a ‘law’ [writer’s emphasis]

Court of Appeals determined city failed to declare dog dangerous

The Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision based upon their memorandum which stated that it was the City Defendant’s failure to follow their own ‘procedures’ [writer’s emphasis] that is the issue here. The Court of Appeals inferred in Davis’ favor that City Defendants had received notice of this dog and had knowledge of the dog’s history involving an earlier biting incident; the City Defendants had failed to follow the City’s own procedures to declare the dog ‘dangerous’. The divided Court of Appeals ruled that City Defendants were not entitled to either statutory law enforcement immunity or common law immunity.

The dissenting Appellate decision written by Judge Kirsch made the point that the procedures for determining the danger of an animal and the seizing of an animal exist for the enforcement provisions of the Ordinance. He writes:

Had the City followed such procedures, it would have been enforcing a law, and its failure to follow such procedures is a failure to enforce a law, a failure that is immune under the Indiana Tort Claims Act. Davis, 2010 WL 3377720, at *6 (Kiersch, J., dissenting).

On June 21, 2011 the Supreme Court of Indiana vacated the opinion of the Court of Appeals.

Justice Sullivan wrote:

[t]he alleged failure of the City Defendants to follow these procedures constitutes at worst a “failure to…enforce a law” for which the City Defendants are immune from liability under Indiana Code § 34-13-3-3(8).

Lawyers experienced in litigating dog bite cases

Attorney, Charlie Ward, is a partner lawyer in the law firm of Ward & Ward Law Firm with experience practicing in the area of personal injury law  in the state of Indiana. If you or someone you know has been bitten by a dog, call Charlie today at 317-639-9501 to discuss the facts of your potential lawsuit.

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225



How Much Med-Pay Insurance is Enough?

Medical Payment Auto Insurance Coverage

The next time you receive a policy renewal from your automobile insurance company, take a look at the Declarations Page (coverage break-down) to determine the amount of “Medical Payments” coverage you carry. Unless otherwise requested, most auto insurance companies in Indiana, automatically quote medical-payment limits of liability coverage in the amount of $5,000 each person. If you or a family member, have never had to use this important benefit due to a traumatic injury from an auto accident, chances are you may not have given much consideration to the amount of med-pay coverage you should have.

What is med-pay insurance?

Medical-payment insurance exists for the benefit of the policyholder(s) injured in an auto accident. This coverage insures the automobile insurance company will make timely payments to the medical provider(s) for hospitals, medical treatment, physical therapy, and reimburse out-of-pocket medical costs including prescriptions, co-pays and other medically-necessary incidentals resulting from an accident.

How much medical payment insurance should I buy?

Most major health insurance policies today put forth high annual deductible plans. A good rule of thumb is to look at the deductible of your health insurance. How much of your family’s deductible could you affordably self-insure if you were seriously injured in an auto accident? Medical payment coverage of $5,000 may cover only half of the medical bills for someone with a $10,000 deductible health plan. Would you be comfortable withdrawing $5,000 from your savings or investments to make those medical payment arrangements which could have been easily avoided by doubling your med-pay auto insurance for just a few pennies a day?

It takes time to resolve a legal action. In the mean time, hospital and medical creditors require payment.  You can avoid the financial and medical hardship created by callous collection agents, whom  it seems (tongue in cheek) lock your phone number on their speed dial — by properly assessing your financial needs. The next time you have a moment, review your coverage. If you need clarification, get the answers you need from your agent or call  lawyer Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501 for an in depth explanation of your auto insurance coverage. Then determine how much medical payment coverage is right for you.

Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225