Owner of dog who bit visiting nurse over twenty times could be liable

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An individual who undertakes to do an act for another person has the duty to exercise care in doing that act, even if the undertaking was voluntary. If the individual fails to properly undertake that duty and injuries result, then they may be liable for those injuries.

The Georgia Court of Appeals case of Stennette v. Miller provides an example of this concept, in a case where a victim received more than 20 dog bites while visiting a home.

A nurse is attacked in a home

The victim was a nurse who was providing nursing services to the homeowner's mother at the owner's home. On the nurse's first visit to the home, the owner's dog, a male bulldog, jumped on the nurse in an aggressive matter. The nurse asked the owner to keep the aggressive dog as well as the owner's other dogs away from her during her nursing visit.

The nurse then began calling the owner before visiting the house to ask that the dogs be confined. Upon arriving, the nurse would check that the dogs were indeed confined.

On the day of the incident, the owner put his six dogs into the fenced back yard and left to run an errand. The nurse met the housekeeper upon entering the house, and confirmed that the animals were confined. However, as the nurse entered, the dogs managed to enter the house through the back door. The nurse was bitten more than 20 times and sustained significant injuries before the aggressive dog was pulled away by the housekeeper.

The nurse brought several claims for her injuries, but the trial court granted summary judgment for the owner-ending the case before the nurse even had her full day in court. Among other issues, the trial court found that the owner did not know his dog had a propensity to bite, and that the dog had been contained within the owner's house. The nurse appealed this decision.

Did the owner owe a duty to the nurse?

Although the dog had not bitten other people and was not running loose, this should not have ended the case, according to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The nurse was at the home to perform a job. She had previously expressed concern to the owner about the dogs and had asked the dogs be confined during her visits. On the day of the attack, the nurse again asked that the dogs be confined and did not enter the home until the housekeeper confirmed the dogs were in the back yard. The owner had chosen to leave the dogs in the care of the housekeeper and his elderly mother, even though the owner knew they were not capable of controlling the dogs.

This evidence created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the owner had undertaken a duty to keep the dogs away from the nurse while she was in the house. Thus, the summary judgment against the nurse in this personal injury case was reversed. She would be granted her full day in court to make her case.

Pain, injury and trauma

Severe dog bites can cause pain and psychological trauma. Disfiguring injuries may require plastic surgery as well. If you have been injured by a dog, it is important that you consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney, prior to accepting any offered settlement. Choose an attorney who will work hard to ensure you receive the full compensation to which you are entitled.