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Court Rejects Georgia Plaintiff’s Dog Bite Case Based on Lack of Causation Evidence

July 1, 2021 Dog Bite Cases

It’s a fundamental rule of law that you have to prove that someone’s bad action caused the injury you are suing over. In this sad case, a pit bull escaped from a yard and mauled a lady. With no evidence of prior attacks, the plaintiff had to show that the dog owner violated the leash law. The court said that where there was a fence, that was not a violation and threw out the case against the dog owner.

Then the Court turned to the landlord to see if the broken gate latch made it the landlord’s fault that the dog escaped and attacked. I was surprised that the Supremes then held that when you are suing the property owner (the guy that rents to the dog owners), the plaintiff “must therefore present some evidence showing that the landlord had knowledge of the dogs’ tendencies or propensities to do harm in order to demonstrate reasonable foreseeability. ” Ouch. That is a tough hurdle to clear.

Here is an analysis of the state appellate court opinion in a Georgia dog bite lawsuit discussing the element of causation, as well as the type of evidence that a plaintiff must present to establish liability against an out-of-possession landlord. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence indicating that her injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant landlord’s negligence actions.

The Facts

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was on a walk with her dogs a few blocks from her home when two pit bulls approached her. The approaching dogs initially began to quarrel with the plaintiff’s dogs, but when the plaintiff tried to separate the animals one of the large dogs knocked her to the ground and began to attack her. Thankfully, a passerby called the police, and officers were able to stop the attack. However, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the dogs’ owners. However, the plaintiff later added the landlord as an additional defendant, claiming that the landlord was negligent in failing to keep his property safe. This case involves the plaintiff’s case against the landlord.

Evidently, the tenants’ dogs were being kept in the back yard of the home when the animals escaped through the gate to the front yard. Apparently, the latch on the gate had been broken for some time before the accident, and the tenant relied on a temporary solution to get by. For the purposes of a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the defendant landlord acknowledged that he knew the plaintiff’s kept two pit bulls on the property and that the gate latch was broken.

The Court’s Decision and Analysis

The court found in favor of the defendant landlord, dismissing the plaintiff’s case. The court began by noting that in a personal injury case against a landlord, a plaintiff must present evidence of the four elements of a negligence claim: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Here, the court determined that the first two elements were established by the plaintiff’s showing that the defendant landlord failed to fix the gate latch on his property.

The court, however, concluded that the plaintiff presented insufficient evidence to show that the defendant landlord’s actions were the cause of her injuries. The court explained that one of the critical factors in determining whether a defendant’s actions are the proximate cause of a plaintiff’s injuries is whether the plaintiff’s injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant’s actions. Here, the court noted that the plaintiff presented no evidence suggesting that the landlord knew that the plaintiff’s dogs were dangerous. Thus, the court determined that this type of attack was not a foreseeable result of the defendant’s failure to fix the gate latch.

Have You Been Attacked by a Dog?

If you or someone you love has recently been the victim of a dog’s attack, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a Georgia dog bite claim. Attorney Christopher M. Simon is a dedicated Georgia personal injury lawyer with extensive experience representing clients and their families in all types of personal injury matters, including Georgia dog attack cases. To learn more, call 404-259-7635 to schedule a free consultation today.

Read More:

Court Discusses “Distraction Doctrine” in Recent Georgia Premises Liability Case, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published December 26, 2018

Georgia Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Slip-and-Fall Case for Lack of Evidence Proving Defendant’s Knowledge of Hazard, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published January 15, 2019

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