I represented a neonatal physician who was bitten by her neighbor's loose dog after it charged her dog while she was walking, ending up in a scuffle. The neighbor was walking two dogs, and my client, just one dog. My client sustained injuries/abrasions to the top of her foot, right leg, right hip, stomach, and a fracture of her left finger (which required two surgeries). She also had a wage loss claim as a pediatric physician at Scripps Hospital Birth Unit. The neighbor's dog was reported to have had an aggressive temper.
California law on dog bites summary:
The facts of this preventable incident were governed under California strict liability law. California has thus enacted statutory strict liability under what is commonly referred to as the dog-bite statute, and it applies to dog owners. Under this law, if a dog bites a person, without provocation, while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog is liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
In addition to the California statutory strict liability law, the owner or keeper of a dog can be held strictly liable under traditional legal principles (the “common law”) if he or she knows or has reason to know that his or her dog (or the dog in his or her care, custody, and control) has a propensity to bite humans.
Analysis of the facts that applied to this case and the eventual settlement:
The insurance company attempted to argue that this case was an apportionment of fault case which means they thought my client was partly at fault because she entered the fray of dogs fighting one another. I argued that the bottom line is the neighbor violated a well-known safety rule on choosing to not secure her dog. “But for” her choosing to disregard this safety rule on pet dogs, the incident would not have occurred at all. Thus, I did not agree with any apportionment of fault on these facts since it was the neighbor's failure to secure her dogs that began the chain reaction of the assault. This was a PREVENTABLE dog bite, and the only person who could have prevented it was the at-fault neighbor.
Based on my arguments, I was able to settle this case for policy limits of $300,000.00 plus $5,000.00 in Medical Pay benefits for a total of $305,000.00.