Fort Lauderdale Animal Bites and Owner Liability

Any animal owner whose pet inflicts harm on another person, through a bite or some other form of attack, can be held liable. Florida, Statute 767.04 holds that a dog owner can be held liable for bites inflicted by their animal to anyone in a public place or lawfully in a private place – regardless of whether the canine previously displayed any signs of viciousness.
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Our Fort Lauderdale dog bite lawyers work with animal bite victims to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. In some cases, victims can pursue a claim with the owner’s homeowner insurance policy.

Still, it’s worth noting that dogs aren’t the only animals with the potential for aggressiveness. In Florida, people have been known to keep a wide variety of animals as pets. These include cats and birds and horses, etc., but also snakes, lizards and other potentially dangerous reptiles. Anytime the owner of an animal fails to prevent a foreseeable risk of damage or injury, he or she can be held strictly liable under Florida law.

A recent case before the Connecticut Supreme Court involved an equine injury, and the question of whether it mattered that the owner had no knowledge of the animal’s prior “mischievous propensities.” Ultimately, the court ruled in Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. P’ship that this didn’t matter, adhering instead to the general principle of the duty by keepers of domestic animals to exercise reasonable care to prevent foreseeable injuries.

The court found that in this case, per the testimony given by the plaintiff’s expert witness, horses are an animal with a propensity to bite or cause injuries suddenly, without warning, regardless of whether they have done so in the past. The owners knew this, the court found, and should have taken greater care to protect the public.

The high court’s decision reversed lower court rulings that were in the defendant’s favor.

According to court records, the property on which the incident occurred was a garden, pasture and greenhouse open to the public for the purchase of vegetables, flowers, seasonal ornaments and the like. Often, when customers had completed their purchase at the on-site store, they would ask to see the horses. No barrier was erected between the customers and the horses.

One day, a father arrived with his two-year-old son. After purchasing plants, the father put the goods in the car and took his son over to see the horses. They approached a brown horse. The father petted the horse. He stopped, though, when he noticed his son became drawn to another horse. Suddenly without warning, the brown horse bent down and bit the toddler on the face, tearing off a large portion of flesh from his cheek.

The injury required surgery and resulted in a permanent scar on the boy’s face.

Initially when the plaintiffs sued, the lower courts decided the case based on whether the horse’s owner had ever known it to be a danger. In 28 years, the defendants argued, they had never had a horse attack a person.

However, based on the principle of strict liability, the state supreme court ruled that fact didn’t matter.

Call Fort Lauderdale injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. P’ship, April 1, 2014, Connecticut Supreme Court
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Fort Lauderdale DUI Crashes Remain Spring Break Hazard, March 25, 2014, Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer Blog