Additionally, F.S. 767.01 imposes dog owner liability for any damages caused by the dog – even if there was no bite involved. So in other words, if a dog gives chase to a person without provocation and the person falls and is injured, the dog owner may be liable.
Other laws have similar provisions, and this was exactly the situation in Grammer v. Lucking, before the Nebraska Supreme Court.
Court records from the case give our personal injury lawyers some insight.
Plaintiffs in the case were taking a walk around their neighborhood when they approached the rear of defendant’s home. There, two large dogs were in the back yard, which had no fence. One of the dogs was reportedly on a leash, but the other was not.
When plaintiffs were about 20 feet from the property, the dogs began barking wildly and growling. Then, the dogs charged. The husband stepped in front of his wife. The dog on the chain was stopped at the end of his chain. The other dog, however, continued to run.
He ran past the husband and toward the wife. She stumbled backward and injured her elbow.
At that point, the dog stopped its chase. Defendant owner stepped outside a few moments later and called the dogs inside.
Plaintiffs concede that at no point did the dogs scratch, bite or in any way touch them. Still, the wife’s elbow was injured, and the couple filed a lawsuit for these injuries.
The law in Nebraska imposes liability for any dog that “kills, wounds, injures, worries or chases a person or persons.”
Defendants sought summary judgment from the trial court, asserting the dogs hadn’t intended to catch plaintiff, so plaintiffs couldn’t collect damages.
The court weighed this and determined that in order for the claim to survive summary judgment, evidence had to show the dogs were chasing the couple – and specifically the injured woman in order to catch or harm her. Because no facts indicated the dog had intended to harm the wife – it had stopped chasing when she fell – the court ruled plaintiff was unable to collect damages and granted the defense motion.
The couple appealed directly to the state supreme court, which granted review.
They alleged the trial court did not consider whether the dog had “injured” her, even if that was not the dog’s intent.
Nebraska Supreme Court justices noted that case law has allowed exemption to dog-related injuries for “playful and mischievous acts.” But the trial court had never reached the issue of whether the dogs were merely being playful or mischievous.
Rather, the issue was whether the dogs “chased” her and as a result “injured” her. The trial court had only considered the term “chase” to mean “following quickly or persisting in order to catch.” Because the dog ended pursuit when plaintiff fell, indicating it never meant to “catch” her, the trial court had overruled the summary judgment. State supreme court justices reversed.
Even though the dogs hadn’t chased her to catch her, it did not apply the alternatively recognized versions of the term “chase.” Therefore, plaintiffs should be given the opportunity to have their claim heard.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Grammer v. Lucking, Jan. 15, 2016, Nebraska Supreme Court
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University of Miami v. Ruiz – Florida High Court Declines Birth Injury Review, Jan. 4, 2016, Miami Dog Injury Lawyer Blog