Can a Dog Owner be Sued for Gross Negligence to Recover Punitive Damages?

Categories: Dog Bites

lawsuit to recover punitive damages

Experienced Philadelphia Dog Bite Lawyers Seeking Punitive Damages for Victims of Dog Owner’s Negligence

Most dogs out there are friendly and well-trained. They are not a threat to society and are trained by their owners to be obedient and gentle.

Sadly, some dogs are trained to be aggressive, or the dog has a personality trait that makes him or her naturally aggressive toward others. In this case, the owner is required to take special precautions to protect the public.

When the owner commits gross negligence, the victim may be able to sue for punitive damages – a form of damages only allowable in acts of malicious intent or gross negligence.

What is Gross Negligence?

Gross negligence refers to an owner’s ability to stop a foreseeable event but ignoring the threat and allowing it to happen. Say, for example, that an owner knew the dog attacked in the past, the attack was foreseeable, and the standard of care expected of the owner was not provided.

There are very few cases of gross negligence in dog attack instances because most dog bite cases are not acts of gross negligence. They are typically an error of judgment or an entirely unexpected, albeit tragic, event.

How Punitive Damages Work

Punitive damages are a particular type of damages in personal injury claims that are designed to punish, not compensate. They punish the defendant and serve as a valuable reminder to the public of what may occur when the law is ignored.

For punitive damages to work, the injury must be intentional or proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant foresaw the damage.

Determining Punitive Damages in a Dog Attack Case is Complicated

To receive punitive damages, your attorney must show that the owner’s conduct would lead a reasonable individual to believe that the owner deliberately disregarded the victim’s safety or the rights of others. Some situations that could result in punitive damages include:

  • Violent training. If the dog was trained to attack people at random or was trained to be violent – such as for illegal dog fighting – then punitive damages might be applicable.
  • Previous history of attacks. If that same dog had attacked, bitten, or harmed someone in the past, then the owner has a legal obligation to protect the public from future attacks. Failure to do so is gross negligence.
  • Extreme aggression. Even if the dog has not attacked, it could be labeled as extremely aggressive. It might even be labeled “aggressive” by the vet or city, in which case the owner was more than aware of his or her dog’s likelihood to harm someone.

Third Parties and Gross Negligence

In some cases, it might not just be the dog’s owner; a third party could also be liable for punitive damages. For example, someone was watching the dog and knew the dog was prone to attacking people. The owner left the dog in careless hands of another, and the reckless individual did not take precaution even though they knew the dog was a threat. In this case, both parties could be liable for damages, including the potential for punitive damages.

Speak with a Dog Bite Attorney

Jeffrey H. Penneys, Esq. has experience with punitive and compensatory damages in dog attack cases. He can help you determine what compensation your case qualifies for, and he will aggressively fight for your right to hold owners accountable.

Speak with him today by calling his cell at 215-771-0430 or reach him at the office by calling 215-987-3550. You can also contact him online and request your appointment for a free consultation.