This is a review of a dog attack lawsuit which required the assistance of a dog bite injury lawyer. The plaintiff in this case had been bitten by a dog used to guard the property of her employer. The woman had tried to reach an agreement with her employer’s insurance company to recover her medical bills, but those negotiations repeatedly failed to produce a settlement.
Seeing that progress was unlikely outside of court, the woman retained a dog bite injury lawyer and filed suit against her employer.
Statement of Facts…
Sylvia Oth was employed as an accounting clerk by Plas Ford in Medford Oregon. She normally began her workday at 9:00 a.m. but on January 3rd, 2010, she came in at 7:00 a.m. to finish a report which was due by the end of the day.
When she arrived, she parked in employee parking which was located at the back of the dealership.
Also at the back of the dealership was a fenced in area where many of the higher value new vehicles were stored. This fenced in area was guarded by a German Shepherd which had been sold to the dealership by a local security firm. The dog had been trained to be aggressive and protective of the area in which it was to be fenced.
As she exited her vehicle, Oth heard what sounded to her like an animal growling. When she turned around, she was confronted by the guard dog. The dog immediately jumped up and knocked the woman’s keys and coffee from her hand. At the same time the dog bit the woman’s right hand.
Oth tried using her arms to fend off the dog’s attack, but her efforts were to no avail. The dog continued to jump up and bite her, primarily on her wrists and forearms.
At about this time one of the dealership’s mechanics drove up and saw the dog attacking Oth. He jumped out of his car and grabbed a monkey wrench he had in his glove compartment. Without hesitation, he began flailing away at the dog making every attempt to distract the dog long enough for it let go of the woman. After being hit several times on its snout, the dog ran off.
Once the dog ran off, the man immediately turned his attention to Oth. She was bleeding profusely and was in shock. He attempted to comfort her while simultaneously calling 911. Minutes later the paramedics arrived. They treated her at the scene and transported her to the local hospital where she remained for 7 days.
While at the hospital, Oth was treated with antibiotics, diazepam to aid in sleeping, and demerol for pain. Oth’s injuries needed several skin grafts to correct, and after being released from the hospital, she required the services of a full time nurse to change her bandages and dressings.
Oth attempted to negotiate with her employer’s insurance company but to no avail. With mounting bills, she hired a dog bite injury lawyer specializing in dog attacks and sought restitution.
Oth’s dog bite injury lawyer contended that the dog had been able to attack Oth because it had escaped from its pen through a hole in the fence. Oth’s attorney went on to contend that Plas failed to take appropriate precautions to keep the guard dog confined.
The dog’s escape, Oth contended, was foreseeable, and Plas should be held liable for the injuries Oth suffered.
Prior to the trial, Oth’s dog bite injury lawyer took the deposition of one of the janitors who was employed by Plas on the date Oth was attacked. During his deposition, the janitor testified part of his duties was to feed the guard dog and make sure the area inside the pen was kept clean.
He stated he began to notice on or about December 1st there was a small gap inside the south corner of the fence. It appeared to him the dog had been using his paws and snout to pry a gap in the fence.
At first he didn’t think too much about it, but by the second week he became concerned because the gap appeared almost large enough for the dog to escape through.
Rather than reporting the gap to his supervisor he looked inside the auto parts room and located some broken pieces of wood. With the pieces of wood he fashioned a crude, but what he believed to be effective cover for the gap in the fence. Thinking the makeshift repair would last indefinitely, he said nothing about it to his immediate supervisor or any other employee.
In its defense, Plas agreed that the dog had seriously injured Oth, but it denied any negligence, and as a result contended it should not be held liable for her medical costs and other compensation.
Plas stated it had no notice of the gap in the fence, and without notice it could not be held liable. Plas contended the janitor’s failure to communicate the gap in the fence to either a supervisor or even a fellow employee relieved it from liability.
Plas went on to state the dog’s attack was not a foreseeable event. Plas contended it took all reasonable and prudent precautions to insure the safety of its employees.
Plas produced evidence the fence was built only 12 months before the attack, and was made of maple with metal reinforcements, with each column spaced 6 feet apart and sunk into concrete. Although empathetic of its employee’s injury, Plas adamantly denied liability.
After hearing the evidence presented and the arguments of the dog bite injury lawyers, the Court found for the plaintiff Oth.
The Court found Plas breached its standard of reasonable care. The Court went on to state the dog’s escape was a foreseeable harm. The Court would not permit Plas to use the janitor’s lack of communication about the gap in the fence as a vehicle within which it might escape liability.
The Court awarded to Oth the amount of $40,800 in actual damages and $200,000 for pain and suffering. Plas filed its Notice of Appeal.
Employers will be held liable in most circumstances for the actions of their employees. The employer should be ever-vigilant of the activities on its property.
Unless an employee actually commits a crime, an employer will almost always be responsible for the commissions or omissions of its employees, and employers should exercise every reasonable precaution to maintain proper communications with its employees.
Predicting a “foreseeable harm” is part of maintaining a standard of reasonable care. The Court recognized this defendant’s standard of reasonable care was insufficient. Simply predicting and recognizing a possible harm may be enough to thwart the serious bodily injury or death of an employee.
*This case example is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.
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