Tag Archives: dog bite

Is a Dog Owner Responsible for Dog Bite Injuries and Death Claims in Indiana?

Written by Injury Attorney Charlie Ward

Indianapolis IN Personal Injury Attorney Dog Bite This morning we learned from WRTV.com that on Sunday, July 20, 2014, an Indianapolis infant was killed by his Ohio’s step-grandmother’s American Staffordshire Terrier.Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Mail Online reported the step-grandmother was caring for the boy when the dog jumped a gate in her Dayton, Ohio home and attacked the infant boy. The grandmother failed in a desperate attempt to stop the attack. The child suffered multiple injuries. An autopsy performed on Monday revealed his death was caused by blunt force trauma.

A complaint had been previously filed against the dog’s owner for an unprovoked attack upon a beagle in June. The pretrial hearing for the June complaint was continued days before the child’s death.

What makes this tragedy so heartbreaking is that it could have been averted had the owner taken immediate action to remove the dog from her home once she became aware of the dog’s aggressive act toward the beagle.

How is liability determined in Indiana dog bite cases?

In Indiana, a dog owner may be held liable for an unprovoked attack if the dog bites an individual while the owner knowingly allows the dog to run free of restraint. A dog owner may also be liable if the dog has a propensity for aggressive behavior that has manifested in the past. More often than not, the owner of the dog will have prior knowledge if the dog has shown a previous inclination of aggressive behaviors such as growling, barring of the teeth or biting. Medical records or eye witness testimony may bear this out during discovery. If the case goes to trial, the judge or jury will ultimately determine liability based upon the evidence.

Strict liability imposes liability on a party without taking fault into account. The owner of the dog is responsible for all damages suffered by a person charged to carry out a duty imposed by state law, federal law or the US Postal Service on the grounds of strict liability. See Indiana Code 15-20-1-3

A conscious reduction of co-contributing factors may alter the number of dog bite related deaths

In December, 2013, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) published the first comprehensive study on dog bite related fatalities (DBRF) performed since 1970. The sample taken from 256 fatalities over a 9-year period showed a combination of four (4) or more of the following factors were present in 80.5 % of the deaths:

  • No able-bodied person being present to intervene (87.1%)
  • The victim having no familiar relationship with the dog(s) (85.2%)
  • The dog(s) owner failing to neuter/spay the dog(s)(84.4%)
  • A victim’s compromised ability, whether based on age or physical condition, to manage their interactions with the dog(s) (77.4%)
  • The owner keeping dog(s) as resident dog(s), rather than as family pet(s) (76.2%)
  • The owner’s prior mismanagement of the dog(s) (37.5%)
  • The owner’s abuse or neglect of dog(s) (21.1%)

The National Canine Research Council has published an in depth white paper on the above-referenced study entitled Potentially Preventable Husbandry Factors Co-occur in Most Dog Bite Related Fatalities.

Call Ward & Ward Law Firm for a free consultation today

Our attorneys are experienced in handling dog bite injury claims caused by negligent dog owners. If you or a loved one has a potential dog bite claim, we would be happy to discuss your case with you.

Call Charlie Ward for a free consultation at 317-639-9501.

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