Most lawsuits alleging injuries from dog bites are fairly straightforward. Under California law, dog owners are liable when their pets attack other people. If someone is attacked by their own dog, the attack is tragic, but filing a lawsuit is usually out of the question. Who could be held liable in such a case, if not the owner himself?
A recent lawsuit here in California presents a more difficult question of liability. According to news sources, the 21-year-old plaintiff was severely bitten by his own dog, but he had adopted the dog just one month prior to the attack. Moreover, he alleges that the dog’s previous caretakers, an animal advocacy group, failed to inform him that the dog had recently bitten someone else.
The dog was adopted in San Diego County last December at an adoption event hosted by “Labrador and Friends.” About two weeks prior to the event, the dog reportedly bit a woman on the hand, almost severing her finger. The man says that L&F was “very diligent about giving us information, dog’s veterinary records, his chip, [and] various other life history,” but did not tell him about the attack. If they had, he claims, he would not have adopted the dog.
Just over a month later, the young man was attacked by his new dog. Suddenly and without warning, the dog bit his owner’s face so hard that it tore off the man’s nose. He has undergone several surgeries to repair the damage.
The lawsuit names both Labrador and Friends and San Diego County as defendants. In addition to personal injury, the plaintiff is suing for fraud.
To be sure, most rescue-adopted dogs are loving and docile. The plaintiff has even said he still encourages other families to adopt dogs. But this case serves as a grim reminder that failure to disclose an animal’s recent, violent history is likely to lead to disastrous consequences.