Dog Bite Injury Victim Awarded $1.4 Million
Gregg Hollander | August 29, 2016 | Premise Liability
A 16-year-old who suffered serious injuries after being bitten by a Labrador retriever while at a friend’s house in Connecticut has been awarded $1.4 million by a state court judge.
According to TheDay.com, the teen, who just entered his junior year of high school, has already endured 10 surgeries due to the attack and will likely require at least two more in the future. The attack reportedly occurred in 2013 at the rental home of the dog’s owners, who later euthanized the dog. The victim allegedly suffered severe injuries to his face, left eye, chin, lip, neck, shoulder and chest. He had to be transported to the hospital via helicopter, as medical personnel feared at the time his injuries could be life-threatening.
This case shatters some of the notions some pet owners have that certain breeds are inherently safe. News reports indicate the attack was reportedly unprovoked and the dog, named “Bubba,” reportedly did not have a history of violence.
Under Connecticut law, similar to Florida statute, the owner and/or keeper of a dog is liable for the injuries the animal causes in a bite or attack, regardless of whether the dog was previously vicious or if the owners knew about it.
Florida’s dog bite statute – F.S. 767.04 – holds that the owner of a dog who bites any person who is lawfully on the site is liable for damages, regardless of whether the dog was previously deemed vicious. Unless the child is under 6, any negligence on the part of the victim will reduce his or her damages, but it won’t eliminate a cause of action.
In the Connecticut case, the dog owners, who did not have renters’ insurance, represented themselves at a hearing for damages and did not contest liability. Talking to a reporter by telephone, one of the owners said the process had been “long” and “very emotional,” and that this was a family dog she had raised since he was a puppy.
“That he did that to that child is hard,” she said.
When images of the boy’s injuries were entered into evidence, plaintiff’s attorney noted they were, “among the most graphic and appalling” he’d ever seen in his years working as a dog bite attorney.
Surgeons were ultimately able to reattach the skin around the victim’s eye, as this had been torn off. However, he now has a permanent scar around the left side of his face and his lip bulges and droops anytime he smiles. On his chest, there is a permanent, raised red scar.
The victim’s mother said she hopes the case will raise awareness of the potential danger larger dogs pose to children, and that parents should ask about their presence when their kids are visiting friends – the same way they would ask about guns.
Exactly how this damage award will be paid is not clear. Typically, such claims are paid by homeowners’ insurance. In fact, one-third of all homeowner insurance liability claims stem from dog bite injuries – some $530 million total annually, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
In this case, $1.2 million was awarded directly to the teen, while another $250,000 for compensation for past and future medical expenses for their son.
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