Is a Security Company Responsible When A Security Guard’s Personal Dog Bites You?

March 17, 2016 4:58 pm Published by

Bulow v. Dawn Patrol, 216 Cal. App. 2d 721 (1963)

Is a security company liable if a security guard’s dog bites you?

Yes

When a security guard takes a dog to work and the dog bites, is the security company responsible?

Yes

SUMMARY OF FACTS

This is an action for damages for personal injuries resulting from an attack by a dog which was owned by a guard-patrolman, who was employed by defendant Dawn Patrol.

In a jury trial, the verdict was for plaintiff for $15,000, and for the intervener (compensation insurance carrier for plaintiff’s employer) for $7,986.27. Defendant’s motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and for a new trial were granted. In the order granting a new trial (on the ground of error in instructing the jury), it was stated that the order would be effective only if the judgment notwithstanding the verdict is reversed.

Plaintiff and the intervener appeal from the judgment notwithstanding the verdict and from the order granting a new trial, and they contend that the court erred in granting the motions.

Plaintiff Bulow was employed by General Controls Company. The was on several acres in Burbank. Defendant Dawn Patrol was furnishing guard and patrol services for the protection of that plant. The guards were stationed at guard shacks at entrance gates. About every 45 minutes of each hour at nighttime they would patrol designated routes.

Plaintiff Bulow arrived at the plant about 3:30 or 4 a.m. each work day to get things ready for other employees. No shift was working when he arrived. He normally entered at gate No. 1, where a guard-patrolman was on duty. On Monday, August 24, 1959, when he arrived at that gate about 3:50 a.m., another employee by the name of Hellebrandt, who did similar work at the plant, was also at that gate, but the guard was not there. The shack did not have a light on either. The two men then went to gate No. 2 where a guard was present and walked a considerable distance to the die-casting department. The tow motor which Bulow intended to use that morning would not start. He then went to guard at gate No. 1 to get a key to the building where other tow motors were kept. About twice a week he had to go get the key. There was no light along the last half of the driveway toward the guard shack and there was no light at or in the area of the guard shack. The guard had turned off the light at the shack because bugs were attracted to the light. About 15 to 40 from the shack he heard a growl and a bark. Suddenly German shepherd dog leaped against Bulow’s chest, knocked him backward. Buloow suffered a lacerated scalp and bled his nose and left ear from hitting his head against the concrete. He was unconscious for a short time. He was diagnosed as having sustained a basal skull fracture, and was hospitalized two weeks. He lost his senses of smell and taste. He also had partial loss of hearing in his left ear.

The dog was owned by Wayne Bishop, the guard at gate No. 1. He go the dog as a gift from his former the California Plant Protection Company which was engaged in the business of guarding business establishments during the nighttime.

When Bishop went to the premises of General Controls on Saturday, August 22, at 6 p.m., to begin his work there he was met at gate No. 1 by Captain Russett, an employee of Dawn Patrol who was supervisor of its guards. Russett noticed the dog and did not tell Bishop that he could not keep the dog on the premises. Russett told him that, as a guard, he would have keys to some of the buildings and that there would be occasions when employees of General Controls would approach him to get keys to buildings. He was also told that some of those employees would be coming in, and leaving, at various hours of the night, even though the regular shift was not working. Russett left there about 9 p.m.

Sunday night Bishop returned with the dog and took the dog with him on the hourly rounds.

About 3:45 a.m. on Monday, August 24, when Bishop returned the lights of the shack were out, and the dog was outside the shack and not tied to anything, and Bishop was not watching him. While Bishop had his shoe off and was treating a blister, he heard some one call, “Hey, hey.” Bishop stood up, looked out the window, and saw Bulow lying on his back. According to Bishop’s testimony, Bulow was about 15 feet from the shack. Bishop helped him and called an ambulance.

Hellebrandt testified that Bishop came told him that Bulow had had an accident and wanted Hellebrandt to help him when the ambulance arrived. Hellebrandt a pool of blood on the pavement about 15 yards from the guard shack.

Mr. Webb, a witness called by plaintiff, testified that on Sunday, August 23, 1959, the guard came out, opened the gate, and told them to drive back to the cafeteria and wait in the truck until he got there. He told them to stay in the truck because the dog was not friendly. After they parked at the cafeteria the dog arrived at the truck far ahead of the guard, and circled the truck and jumped up on the rear portion of the truck fender, and was barking and growling. The guard said that the dog would not bite while the guard was with him. Bulow and Hellebrandt testified that they had never seen a dog on the premises prior to that occasion and that morning the guard did not tell them that a dog was on the premises.

COURTS OPINION

There was evidence that Russett did not tell Bishop that he would not be allowed to keep the dog on the premises. There was substantial evidence to support the finding of the jury that Bishop had authority, from defendant, to keep the dog on the premises. It is apparent that the presence of that kind of dog would be of assistance to such a guard, and that the taking of such a dog on the rounds or the keeping of him at the guard shack would not be acts which were foreign or unrelated to the object or purpose of such employment. The jury could reasonably find under the circumstances herein that the dog was actually used as a guard dog to help Bishop in the performance of his duties as guard, and was not with him as a pet or merely for companionship.

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