Animal assaults are a tricky area of the law, and it is one often subject to litigation. Can you sue if you become injured while fleeing from a pursuant dog? If so, who can be sued, and do specifics of the dog have any bearing on the case?
Lenetra Outlaw visited the nearby Penny Pinchers discount store in West Point, Mississippi. While there, Outlaw heard a dog barking which caused her to panic. The incident escalated when she heard the dog claws on store floors and a “fierce” dog came bolting down the store aisle after her.
Outlaw’s phobia of canines caused her to run, and she then sought refuge by leaping onto a store freezer, aggravating an old hip injury in the process. She sued the discount store and the manager, who was the owner of the “ferocious” attack dog.
Initially, Outlaw was awarded $130,000 by a state court. However, it bears mentioning that the vicious attack dog was a 4-month old 4-pound Dachshund pup that had never hurt anyone or caused any problems before.
The defendants appealed the case, raising the question of whether the tiny puppy constituted a hazardous condition in the store that day. The appeals court ruled that the plaintiff had to present evidence that the dog possessed violent tendencies and the owner was aware of it. The plaintiff was unable to prove this.
The court also held that the store premises were not required to be hazard free, but merely reasonably safe. Since the dog had never attacked anyone, it was “reasonably safe.” Therefore Outlaw’s own actions were a determining factor in her injury, in terms of liability, and the previous verdict was overturned.
In this case, the small dog’s actions did not cause the injuries sustained by the plaintiff, Outlaw. But in many cases, it is possible to hold a dog’s owners accountable for assaults, bites, etc. by proving the owner negligent. Most dogs are not inclined toward violence but are mistreated, brought up incorrectly, or poorly trained. All of these factors can help determine liability and compensation in a Portland animal assault claim.