Obtaining Recovery for Dog Attacks; Pit Bulls, Dog Bites, J Lo, and the Courts

Most people are afraid of the prospect of confronting a pit bull in a narrow hallway with no means of escape.

Pit bulls have their defenders.  They say that a pit bull is no more violent than any other breed of dog, and they eagerly display their babies frolicking with their loved pit bull.  Friends of pit bulls claim that pit bulls have gotten a bad reputation.  The “bad” pit bulls have been trained to attack or fight other dogs.  Such bad dogs are the dogs of choice for drug dealers and gang leaders.  These are the “bad” pitbulls which are dangerous.

As we discussed in a prior post, in order to sue for a dog bite, the plaintiff must show that the dog had a violent propensity, such as prior attacks.  If there were no prior incidents, then the owner will not be liable.  This has been called the “one free bite” rule.

A clever plaintiff’s attorney tried to get around this rule when his client was bitten by a pit bull who had “no priors” (as they say in criminal law circles).  Plaintiff’s attorney claimed that the pit bull breed per se is violent.  In other words, a pit bull is violent by its very nature, and one need not prove that the dog attacked others previously.  However, the appellate court did not buy this.  It handed a victory to pit bull lovers when it ruled that pit bulls do not receive any different consideration than other other breed.  All dogs stand equal in the courts.  Plaintiff must still prove that the dog in issue had a history of prior attacks and a propensity for violence.  No racial profiling for pit bulls!

On the issue of dog bites, Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, have been sued by a flight attendant who was bitten by the couple’s dog.  We understand that the entertainers might have known of their doggie’s violent propensity in that they warned the flight attendant to be careful around the dog.   Furthermore, a plane is a very confined space with no place to run.  Perhaps J Lo should have muzzled the dog?

If you have been injured by a dog, please feel free to discuss it with me at 800-581-1434 or letters@seitelman.com.

Mark E. Seitelman, 9/11/08, www.seitelman.com.


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