Court Determines Warning Outside Dog Park Was Insufficient to Protect Dog Owner from Liability

Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a dog owner could be held liable for injuries caused by her dog in a public dog park. The court ultimately held that, under the state’s strict liability statute, the warning sign posted outside the dog park was not sufficient to preclude liability. Thus, the court reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s case.

The case presents an interesting issue for Washington, D.C. dog bite victims because, although Washington, D.C. does not employ a strict liability analysis in dog bite cases, courts will consider similar factors to those discussed in the case below when weighing the negligence of the parties.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a volunteer at a local dog park. Prior to volunteering, the plaintiff signed a release waiver with the owner of the dog park, indicating that she was aware of the possible injuries that could occur while volunteering in the park. Additionally, outside the dog park was a warning sign, explaining that anyone who enters the dog park does so at their own risk.

One day, the defendant’s dog was playing in the park when it ran directly into the plaintiff, causing her to fall and break her leg. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that the defendant was liable for her injuries under the state’s strict liability statute.

Strict Liability

Under a strict liability analysis, an injured party does not need to establish that the defendant was negligent. Instead, mere proof that the defendant was the owner of the dog is sufficient to establish liability.

The Court’s Analysis

The trial court found that the plaintiff assumed all risk of injury, based on the sign posted outside the dog park, and dismissed her case. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that under state law, her acceptance of the risks involved in volunteering in the dog park could not legally bar her recovery.

The appellate court began its analysis by citing the state’s strict liability dog bite statute. The court explained that the only defense to a dog bite case is for the defendant to establish that there was a warning sign outside the area where the dog was kept, displaying the words “Bad Dog.”

Here, the court determined that since the warning sign outside the dog park did not contain the exact words “Bad Dog,” the sign could not be used as a defense. The court acknowledged that the plaintiff may have accepted some of the risks involved in volunteering, but it held that such facts should be taken into account by the jury when determining if the plaintiff was comparatively negligent.

Have You Been a Victim of an Animal Attack?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a dog bite or other animal attack, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Washington, D.C. dog bite lawsuit. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers, we represent victims across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. in all types of cases, including dog bites and slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Court Dismisses Premises Liability Lawsuit Against Coffee Shop, Finding Parents Bore the Responsibility to Keep Children Safe, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 19, 2018

Appellate Court Discusses Plaintiff’s Punitive Damages Claim in Recent Dog Bite Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 3, 2018

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