Articles Posted in Dog Bites

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment to a rental home landlord in a lawsuit for injuries and damages brought by a mail carrier who was attacked by two pit bull dogs at the landlord’s rental home. In Fields v. Gaw, Constance Gaw (Gaw) rented a home to Jason McClurg (Jason), who, along with Jill Fields (Jill), resided at the home and owned the dogs. The rental lease stated Jason could have two dogs or cats in the home. Tiffance Fields (Fields), a USPS mail carrier, was delivering mail to Jason’s home and was attacked by Jason and Jill’s dogs. Fields thereafter filed a lawsuit against Jason, Jill, and Gaw alleging they were liable for her injuries and damages under Indiana’s Dog Bite Statute, Ind. Code § 15-20-1-3.

Indiana’s Dog Bite Statute provides that an owner of a dog that bites a person, without provocation, is liable for all damages suffered by the person if the person was acting peaceably and was in a location where the person may be required to be in order to discharge a duty imposed upon the person by the laws of Indiana, the laws of the United States, or the postal regulations of the United States. Ind. Code § 15-20-1-3(a). An “owner” is defined in the Dog Bite Statute as the owner of a dog, including any person who “possesses, keeps, or harbors a dog.” Ind. Code § 15-20-1-2. Under the Dog Bite Statute, an owner is liable for damages even if the dog had not previously behaved in a vicious manner and the owner had no knowledge of prior vicious behavior by the dog. Ind. Code § 15-20-1-3(b). In essence, Indiana’s Dog Bite Statute renders dog owners strictly liable when their dogs bite the class of individuals set forth in the Statute without provocation.

Gaw filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that she had no duty of care to Fields, with her noting that Jason had full possession or control of the rental property, she was not present on the property when the incident occurred, and she was not the owner of, and did not have control over, the dogs. In response, Fields argued that because the lease agreement between Gaw and Jason allowed Jason to have dogs at the rental home, Gaw thereby “harbored” the dogs, making her an “owner” under the Dog Bite Statute. The trial court granted summary judgment for Gaw, finding Gaw was not “the owner of the dog at issue,” with “not even any inference… that supported [Fields’] argument that Gaw possessed, kept, or harbored the dog at issue.” The trial court also found no common law liability on behalf of Gaw and denied Field’s cross-motion for summary judgment. Fields only appealed the trial court’s judgment as to the applicability of Dog Bite Statute as to Gaw.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently held that a duplex rental owner could not be held liable for injuries to a child attacked by a lessee’s dog. In Marchino as next friend Marchino v. Stines, Rex Lott (“Lott”) owned and rented a duplex property in Indianapolis, Indiana. Matthew Marchino (“Marchino”) and his family, including his son, Marcellus Marchino (“Marcellus”), rented one side of the duplex and Woody Stines (“Stines”) rented the other side. Stines had a pit bull named Boy (“Boy”). Prior to the dog bite attack in this case, Lott had been told that Boy had chased a neighbor to the bus stop and that Boy had also nipped a maintenance man fixing a toilet in Stines’ home. While Lott had thereafter asked Stines to remove the dog, Lott did not press Stines when Stines failed to remove Boy because Stines was suffering from leukemia. Unfortunately, Boy got loose one day and attacked Marcellus as Marchino and Marcellus were leaving their home.

Marchino filed a negligence lawsuit against Stines and Lott. To establish negligence in Indiana, a plaintiff must show a duty owed to the plaintiff by the defendant, the defendant’s breach of that duty by failing to comply with the requisite standard of care, and injuries proximately caused by the breach.

Lott filed a motion for summary judgment arguing he had no duty of care towards Marcellus and could not be held liable for the injuries Boy caused because Stines had leased the property and had exclusive possession and control of the property. In response, Marchino argued Lott knew of Boy’s dangerous propensities (a question of fact conceded by Lott), and Lott had retained control of the premises giving rise to a duty of care to Marcellus. As to control, Marchino pointed to the lease agreement between Stines and Lott, which provided Lott retained a right of inspection and no pets were allowed on the property unless approved by Lott. After a hearing, the trial court granted Lott’s motion for summary judgment finding Lott owed no duty of reasonable care to Marcellus.

The Indiana Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in a personal injury lawsuit between a landowner and a person injured on the landowner’s property after a ram owned by the landowner headbutted the person, causing her to fall and fracture her arm, which required surgery.

In deciding the case, the Court of Appeals reviewed Indiana premises liability law, Indiana law on injuries caused by domestic animals, Indiana negligent entrustment law, Indiana negligent supervision law, and Indiana vicarious liability law.

The landlord in this case was in Florida and left her home in Indiana, including animals on her property, under the care of her half-brother. The landowner’s half-brother invited the plaintiff onto the property to help care for an ill goat. While attempting to help the goat, the plaintiff was injured. The plaintiff sought to hold the landowner liable for her injuries on the basis of premises liability, negligent entrustment, negligent supervision, and vicarious liability. Both parties moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the landowner.

Many people may already associate premises liability claims with what is referred to as slip and fall injuries. However, these claims can involve a lot more than slipping on a store floor and getting hurt. In Indiana, there are a wide variety of situations that can lead to a premises liability case.

If a store or establishment has the ability and means to protect against a preventable injury, that place has the legal responsibility to enforce those protections. This can mean ensuring an uneven sidewalk is fixed or labeled as broken or uneven. If you break an ankle on an uneven sidewalk, you could have a a viable claim for monetary damages.

Banisters and sidewalks can be the source of injury just as easily as a store floor that is wet without a warning sign. If a banister leading up the stairs — inside or outside — breaks and gives way, an unexpected fall can lead to serious injuries. Also, a single step in a state of disrepair or otherwise unsafe can collapse and also lead to serious injuries.

Throughout the state of Indiana individuals keep dogs as pets. In many households, they are like members of the family. Despite the high esteem many dogs are given, they can still be dangerous if they attack someone.

People of all ages could be hurt in a dog attack. That said, children are a demographic that are at a high risk for being involved in such an incident. Of the approximate 800,000 dog bites that take place each year, about half involve children who need medical assistance. Each year, between 15 and 20 of these bites to children result in death.

According to the ASPCA there are things that can be done to try to limit the number of these incidents involving children that occur each year.

In a previous post we provided tips regarding how someone might avoid being bitten by a dog. Specifically that post focused on keeping children safe. Unfortunately, even in situations where someone follows those tips dog bites will occur. When they do happen it is important to know what steps to take.

The treatment a dog bite will require depends on its severity. Superficial gashes or scrapes can be treated with a topical antibiotic and bandaged after being cleaned under running water and with either isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

Puncture wounds are generally more serious. If the wound is bleeding profusely and will not stop with direct pressure 911 should be called. In other situations it is okay to let it bleed a bit as it will clean the wound out. When it stops bleeding, running water and a mild soap can be used to clean it. Isopropyl alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are generally not needed as they may make it take longer for the wound to heal. A bandage is optional.

When people think about personal injury cases, many automatically think about car accident injuries and ensuring car insurance companies award fair compensation to injured parties. Many people are unaware of other scenarios in which injuries are sustained by innocent victims due to the negligence of others. While the majority of personal injury claims do indeed involve motor vehicle accidents, there are many other incidents that can warrant personal injury suits in Indiana.

Some common scenarios that can be resolved by civil suits include slip-and-fall cases and negligent security cases. These kinds of accidents can result in devastating injuries, particularly to individuals who already have health issues. In addition, medical negligence and medical malpractice are also commonly cited in personal injury lawsuits.

Some personal injury suits may involve companies or entities who acted negligently. This can include incidents of product liability, such as when a company manufactures a dangerous product that results in injuries to consumers. Construction site accidents resulting from third-party negligence can also warrant personal injury suits when injured workers or bystanders sustain serious injuries.

Many residents of Southwestern Indiana are animal lovers and naturally want to pet dogs that they come across. Unfortunately, some dogs bite people, and dog bites can cause severe physical wounds. In many cases, the victims are left with not only physical scars, but the event could cause emotional trauma as well. A sad fact is that children are often the victims of dog attacks. In many cases, dog owners face premises liability claims after such attacks.

During the National Dog Bite Prevention Week last month, it was reported that in excess of 4.5 million people nationwide suffer dog bites every year. In 2014, Indiana was at number 13 on the country’s list of dog attacks per state. During that week, the American Veterinary Medical Association in collaboration with an insurance company educated children and adults about the prevention of dog bite injuries.

The insurance company that was involved in the education project reported that it paid just under $3 million in claims for dog bite injuries in 2014. An Animal Control Officer says a lot can be revealed by the body language of dogs. Dogs with their tails lowered must not be approached. Also, bristled hair on a dog’s back is a sure sign of danger, and such a dog must be avoided.

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