Posted on

Court Finds Plaintiff’s Acceptance of Risks Involved in Volunteering at Dog Park Does Not Prevent Her from Filing a Personal Injury Case

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Florida dog bite case discussing the single defense to the state’s strict liability dog-bite statute. Ultimately, the court concluded that a warning sign posted outside the dog park where the plaintiff was injured did not bar her recovery against the defendant dog owner.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff had volunteered at a local dog park for three years. Prior to beginning as a volunteer, the plaintiff signed a waiver indicating that she was aware of the dangers involved in being in the dog park and that she accepted those risks. On the entrance gate into the dog park, there was a sign warning visitors of the potential dangers and explaining that all visitors enter at their own risk.

One day, the plaintiff was inside the dog park with the defendant and the defendant’s dog. The defendant’s dog was running around the park when it collided with the plaintiff, causing her to fall and break her leg. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that under the state’s strict liability dog-bite statute, the defendant was liable for her injuries.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff accepted all of the risks of being at the dog park when she entered through the gate containing the warning sign. The trail court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The court began its decision by noting Florida’s strict liability dog-bite statute, under which a plaintiff does not need to establish that the defendant dog owner was negligent. The court acknowledged, however, that there was a single defense under the statute, and that is if there is a sign outside the enclosure containing the dog displaying the words “Bad Dog.”

The court noted that the sign outside the dog park where the plaintiff’s injuries occurred, while sufficiently warning visitors of the potential dangers, did not contain the words “Bad Dog.” The court explained that the purpose behind creating the “Bad Dog” defense was to give visitors “genuine, effective and bona fide” notice that there is a bad dog on the premises.

Here, however, the court did not see the sign outside the dog park as equivalent to a sign containing the statutory words “Bad Dog,” and thus the sign did not preclude the plaintiff from establishing her case. The court did note that the plaintiff’s potential knowledge of the risks involved may be assessed by the jury when determining if the plaintiff was comparatively negligent.

Have You Been a Victim of a Florida Animal Attack?

If you or a loved one has recently been a victim of a Florida dog bite, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. The dedicated South Florida injury lawyers at the law firm of Cecere Santana have decades of collective experience representing victims in a wide range of cases, including Florida dog bite cases. To learn more, call 800-753-5529 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case today.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Pedestrian Bridge at Florida International University Collapses, Resulting in Six Fatalities, South Florida Injury Attorneys Blog, March 27, 2018.

Who Pays in Uber and Lyft Accidents?, Cecere Santana Injury Attorneys Blog, published March 15, 2018.