According to CBS news this week, a Texas woman, Emerald White, filed a lawsuit in Galveston County district court stating that she was “seriously injured” while she attempted to stop her 4 pit bulls from attacking her neighbors 10-year old beagle. Her pit bulls had escaped her yard through a hole in the fence which enabled the attack of the beagle. The owner of the beagle, Mr. Baker, had previously decided not to sue White on account that nothing would bring his dog back and the police had declared White’s dogs dangerous.
This case brings up premises liability questions and will be very interesting to follow. Premises liability centers on the fact that when someone enters your property, they have a reasonable expectation of not getting injured. This means the property owner is responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment.
In the previously mentioned case, the property owner getting sued had a safe environment (at least from all available published accounts) until White's dogs entered the property and created an "unsafe" situation when the dogs started fighting.
Dog Bites in Court
Factors the court will consider during the case will include:
- The status of the visitor that was injured. Was the visitor invited on the property or were they trespassing?
- The condition of the property
- The activities of the owner and the visitor
Regarding the liability of property owners, comparative fault is commonly used in limitation of liability. This means that the injured person was partially at fault for what happened. A visitor has a duty in most cases to exercise reasonable care for their own safety.
Every case needs to be taken on its own merit and a legal professional should always be consulted as even if a visitor exercises reasonable care for their own safety, accidents can and do happen that are the result of negligence of property owners.