Can you successfully sue if you are bitten by a dog while working at a kennel?

September 1, 2015 10:04 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Priebe v. Nelson, 39 Cal.4th 1112, 140 P. 3d 848, 47 Cal.Rptr.3d 553 (2006)

Can you successfully sue if you are bitten by a dog while working at a kennel?

No

Can you successfully sue for a dog bite if your job is taking care of dogs at a kennel?

No

Are you responsible if your aggressive dog bites and you didn’t tell he was aggressive?

Yes

Can you successfully sue for a dog bite, if an aggressive dog bites you and Defendant owner did not tell you it was an aggressive dog?

Yes

Can you successfully sue for an injury resulting from the keeping of a domestic animal with dangerous propensities?

Yes

COURTS REASONING

Plaintiff assumed the risk of being bitten by dogs boarded at the kennel by virtue of the nature of her occupation as a kennel worker. The court held that a common law strict liability cause of action may also be maintained if the owner of a domestic animal that bites or injures another person knew or had reason to know of the animal’s vicious propensities. If defendant knew or should have known of his dog’s vicious propensities and failed to inform Plaintiff of such facts, she could be found to have exposed Plaintiff to an unknown risk and thereby be held strictly liable at common law for her injuries.
Under such circumstances, the defense of primary assumption of risk would not bar Plaintiff’s claim since she could not be found to have assumed a risk of which she was unaware. Plaintiff will have the opportunity to again seek to establish facts supportive of her common law strict liability claim against Defendant for knowingly keeping a domestic animal with vicious propensities.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was a commercial kennel worker, she suffered serious personal injuries when she was bitten and seriously injured by Defendant’s dog while it was boarded at the kennel that employed Plaintiff.

In 2000, defendant was scheduled for out-of-town surgery and took the dog, his 75-pound Staffordshire terrier, also known as a pit bull to a kennel. The dog was an aggressive dog and had gotten into fights with other dogs in the past. On one occasion the dog had also bitten Defendant and another dog owner after the two men pulled their dogs apart to avoid a fight. Defendant required several stitches in his hand as a result of the incident. At least one kennel would not accept the dog for boarding after Defendant informed them the dog was hard to control around other dogs. Defendant then spoke with Peter Clusener, an acquaintance who worked at the Arcata Animal Hospital (Arcata), a small veterinary hospital with a kennel connected to the facility at which dogs are accepted for boarding even when no medical treatment is required. Clusener was familiar with the dog and knew him to be a aggressive dog. He checked with the Arcata veterinarian staff and informed Defendant the dog could be boarded there.
Dr. Oliphant, a veterinarian and owner of the facility, testified Plaintiff’s training as a “kennel technician” would have included the basics of dog walking, including checking a boarded dog’s kennel card to make sure there was no reason not to walk it, how to put a leash and collar on properly, how to greet Defendant, and “to be careful of the other dogs and be aware of Defendant that you’re walking.” Her duties included “caring for the patients and the boarders, feeding, walking, cleaning, laundry, helping hold animals, assisting the veterinarians and the technicians holding animals.
Dr. Oliphant was aware that defendant’s dog was an aggressive dog. It was written on his record and on the cage pen. Dr. Oliphant testified she would not have accepted a dog for boarding who had attacked and bitten its owner after a dogfight because it would be too much of a risk for the staff. Defendant told Plaintiff that the dog needed to be walked with his metal-pronged pinch collar. He also told her that if anyone hurt the dog, that he may hurt them, and that if someone kicked the dog, that he may bite them. Plaintiff assured Defendant that no one would hurt or kick his dog.
At some point Plaintiff became aware the dog was an aggressive dog. She posted a note on his kennel card and the employee memo board warning of that fact. On the morning of September 28, 2000, while taking the dog for his morning walk, Plaintiff heard a dog barking in the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot. The dog began barking and becoming agitated. Plaintiff decided to turn around and return to the kennel. As she was doing so the dog grabbed her foot, knocking her down while mauling her foot and ankle. It took several onlookers to subdue Defendant and get him to let go of Plaintiff’s foot. Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. She suffered numerous bites to her foot and ankle as well as serious nerve injuries that required her to undergo physical therapy and will cause her pain for the rest of her life.

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This post was written by Orange Dog Bite Attorney

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