If you’ve ever wandered too close to a neighbor’s fence and been bitten by their dog, for instance, then you know that dog bite injuries are not all that uncommon. However, most of us would not expect to be bitten by a trained K-9 dog. But, it does happen. If you know anything about government liability, you know that suing the city police department for anything can be a challenge. The recent settlement of just such a case in Florida is a reminder that dog bite cases against the police can be successful.
College student bitten by K-9 Unit
Back in 2013, a 19-year-old Florida Southern College student was bitten on the buttocks by a Lakeland police dog. The student and a friend were having a verbal argument in which officers intervened. According to the police, the two young women were not following the officers’ commands and were ultimately arrested. While the victim was lying on the ground, handcuffed, a police dog escaped from the patrol car and bit her.
Dog bite case against the city settled
Ultimately, the student was not charged with any crime, but she still suffered injuries from the dog attack. A lawsuit was filed against the city for the severe injury she sustained, including damage to her skin and muscle. According to police, the dog was accidentally released by one of the officers who was arresting the student. Apparently, there was a device located on the officer’s belt that releases the patrol car door to allow the dog to be released. It was this remote release that was inadvertently triggered. The young woman was left with permanent scars and a fear of dogs.
Determining liability for dog bites
Every state has its own laws regarding liability for dog bite injuries. Determining who is responsible generally depends on who is responsible for the dog and whether that person had notice that the dog was likely to bite. Typically, the dog’s owner is held legally responsible for dog bite injuries. However, there are other circumstances where someone else may also be liable for your dog bite injury.
Who should I sue for my dog bite injury?
Each dog bite injury case is different, and determining who to sue depends entirely on the facts of your case. Depending on the situation, there may be more than one person or entity that can be held liable. For instance, if someone is taking care of a dog for someone else, and that caretaker had control over the dog at the time of the attack, then it is possible that both the dog owner and the caretaker can be held liable.
Municipal Immunity from lawsuits
When a government entity, such as a city or municipality, is involved in a personal injury claim, the law is different with regard to liability. There is a defense recognized in every state known as “sovereign immunity.” This defense protects municipalities from legal actions when an employee is negligent in causing an injury to a third-party, when the injury occurs while performing a governmental function. However, there are many exceptions to this defense, where the courts have abrogated, or done away with, this immunity. As such an injured citizen may be able to recover, like in a dog bite case.
If you have questions regarding dog bites and municipal immunity, or any other personal injury issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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