Can a veterinarian sue a dog owner if the veterinarian is bitten by the dog while on the job?

August 31, 2015 7:38 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Cohen v. Mcintyre,16 Cal.App.4th 650, 20 Cal. Rptr.2d 143 (1993).

Can a veterinarian sue a dog owner if the veterinarian is bitten by the dog while on the job?

No. The court deems it to be assumption of the risk and the risk is inherent to the job.

Can a plaintiff veterinarian recover when defendant fails to disclose the dogs propensities to bite?

No. The court explained there is no duty unless there is intentional concealment or misrepresentation, or conduct that is so reckless to fall totally outside the range of behavior ordinarily expected of those who avail themselves of veterinary services.

Plaintiff Cohen was a veterinarian employed with the County of Contra Costa. McIntyre owned a dog which she took to the Contra Costa Veterinary Clinic for an examination that would lead to neutering of the dog. The dog had bitten three times in the past and McIntyre thought neutering the dog would help mellow the dog. As Cohen bent down to pick the dog, the dog snapped at Cohen’s arm. Cohen then gave McIntyre a muzzle to muzzle the dog. Cohen then lifted the dog to an examination table. He placed the dog back on the floor and removed the muzzle. As soon as he removed the muzzle the dog attacked Cohen. Cohen did not ask about the dog’s propensities to bite and McIntyre did not volunteer to tell him about it.

Cohen filed a lawsuit against McIntyre, but lost on summary judgment.

In this case there was no evidence which would support a conclusion that defendant deliberately or maliciously withheld information from Cohen. The dog had already displayed aggressive behavior to a point where the vet insisted that the dog be muzzled before the examination could continue. In sum, defendant’s silence did not amount to the type of intentional or reckless conduct which would justify an exception to the normal “no duty” rule in a primary assumption of the risk case.

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This post was written by Orange Dog Bite Attorney

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