There’s more to being a responsible animal owner than preventing your dog from biting or mauling someone. Courts have held owners liable when their negligence in handling pets or livestock seriously injures another person – even if the injuries are not the result of a direct attack.

For example, in one case reported by the Wall Street Journal (subscription required), the court found a cyclist’s personal injury lawsuit could proceed after he was injured by a dog while riding in a park. The dog’s owners, a couple, had been standing on either side of the road as the cyclist approached. The woman called the dog across the street as the cyclist approached, even though the rider called out to “watch your dog.” The animal collided with the cyclist, and he fell off his bike, causing injury to his face.

In its ruling, the court found that “Defendants’ actions can be likened to those of two people who decide to toss a ball back and forth over a trafficked road without regard to a bicyclist who is about to ride into the ball’s path.” The couple was negligent in keeping control of their dog, and therefore could be held liable for the cyclist’s injuries.

There are several other examples of courts holding animal owners responsible for injuries caused by their pets or livestock that were not the result of attacks or bites, including:

  • A cattle shipping company was found liable after a motorist collided with a cow that had escaped a fenced pasture. This was one of the first cases to establish that an owner is responsible for the actions of stray livestock, even if the animal had no prior history of being violent.
  • A jury held a dog owner liable after the animal escaped its yard and collided with a passing cyclist. The cyclist was thrown from his bike and suffered permanent hearing loss.
  • A woman walking on a public road fell off a retaining wall after a dog charged her and she backed up to avoid it. She tore her ACL and meniscus and suffered a leg fracture. The jury found the dog had not been properly restrained and awarded the woman significant damages for her injuries and lost wages though the dog itself had not actually physically harmed her.

The injuries described above were serious, and the courts found the victims could pursue damages from the animal owners. If you have been injured because of an animal owner’s negligence, even if there was no physical attack, please contact the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Personal Injury Litigation Group today to discuss your situation.