North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Summary Judgment for Defendant in Dog Bite Case

Dog bites are incredibly painful and can result in devastating injuries and even permanent disfigurement. Many dog bite accidents happen suddenly and there may not even be any warning leading up to the attack. Dealing with an owner can be an additional frustrating component of this situation, especially if the owner is not wanting to take responsibility. One of the best ways to protect your right to recovery from a careless dog owner is to understand the North Carolina laws and to speak with an experienced Charlotte dog bite attorney.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a case involving a dog bite. The defendants’ two children were walking the family dog before school. The plaintiff was walking on the opposite side of the street after escorting her daughter to the bus stop. The dog began barking at the plaintiff and tugging at his leash. The collar broke and the dog attacked plaintiff leaving several bite marks on her body. The plaintiff received medical treatment for her injuries after being taken by ambulance to the hospital. The local animal control authority indicated that there had been no prior incidents involving the dog.

The plaintiff asserted negligence, strict liability, and infliction of emotional distress in her complaint against the defendants. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis that they had not received any complaints about the dog before this event or noticed him acting aggressively. The plaintiff filed a counter motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff included an affidavit from a veterinarian with her motion stating that the dog belonged to a dangerous breed, the American Bull Dog. The defendants deposed the expert, who testified that not all pit bulls are dangerous dogs and stated that a responsible way of restraining a pit bull is a collar and leash.

Both parties amended their motions for summary judgment. The defendants also added an expert witness, a veterinarian, who stated that breed alone cannot determine the temperament of a dog. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant and the plaintiff appealed. The reviewing court first addressed summary judgment of the strict liability claim, noting that the primary issue hinged on whether the dog was a dangerous dog under N.C. Gen. Stat. Section 67-4.1(a)(1). A dangerous dog is one that has killed or inflicted serious injury without provocation or is deemed potentially dangerous by a municipal authority. The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the dog became dangerous when he engaged in the attack that caused her injuries. The court agreed with the defendant that because there had been no prior attacks the strict liability claim was properly dismissed.

Regarding the negligence claim, the appellate court concluded that summary judgment was appropriate because there was no evidence indicated that the dog had broken his collar or leash in the past and no evidence indicated that this type of restraint was unreasonable.

If you were injured by a dog bite, you may be entitled to compensation. At Maurer Law, we are ready to help you explore your potential legal rights and assist you with obtaining the outcome that you deserve. We provide a free consultation so call us at 1-888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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