While California follows the strict liability theory for the owner of a dog who bites someone (see Dog Bites and Dog-Related Injuries), or the negligence per se theory when injury is caused due to the owner’s failure to follow a local code or ordinance (see Dog Bites…Understanding Negligence Per Se), California also allows the personal injury victim of a dog-related injury to impose liability on the dog’s owner/handler under a pure negligence theory of liability. When someone is negligent, they, generally speaking, have failed to act as a reasonable person would have acted in a similar situation, and the failure to act reasonably resulted in injuries to the victim. When it comes to reasonable behavior on the part of a dog owner or handler, California courts have addressed certain situations where the owner/handler is liable for the victim’s injuries due to their negligence. In Drake vs. Dean (1993), the court found the owner of a dog negligent after that dog knocked the victim over, causing injury. The court held that failure to control one’s dog where it would be reasonably expected that injury could occur absent such control, is negligent (here, the dog was not leashed and essentially not under the owner’s control at all). This holding was an extension of sorts of the Baley vs. J.F. Hink & Son (1955) decision, where a dog on a leash ran into the victim, knocked her over and caused injury. The court in Baley held that it is negligent to place a dog in a situation where it is reasonably foreseeable that the dog will cause injury, even if that dog is leashed, and that the owner is under a duty to exercise greater control to prevent such injury from occurring. What is important to realize in a negligence claim stemming from a dog-related injury is that personal injury victim does not need to prove that the dog had any dangerous propensities or prove the owner’s knowledge of such violent propensities. All that is necessary is showing that the owner/handler of the dog could have reasonably anticipated that the dog’s behavior would cause injury and that they did not exercise reasonable care or cotrol over the dog beforehand. The victim must always be aware of the common defenses that will be asserted to avoid liability. These include assumption of the risk, provocation and comparative negligence (see Dog Bite/Attack Defenses). If you have been the victim of a dog-related injury and would like to speak with a dog-attack lawyer, contact our office today.
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