The mauling of a 7-year-old girl by four Staffordshire bull terrier-cross dogs that made worldwide headlines has left the child struggling for her life in critical but stable condition. She reportedly faces years of reconstructive surgery. According to news reports, the child was attacked while her family vacationed in New Zealand. The dogs repeatedly bit the child over 100 times, prompting some New Zealanders demanding stricter regulations and even a ban on the particular breed of dog. The child’s doctors have publicly stated that the girl and her family can expect decades of ongoing plastic surgeries to repair the damage.
Although the extent of her injuries makes this particular incidence of a dog attack unusually gruesome, many people have experienced the pain and ongoing recovery of a dog bite.
In California, the liability assigned to a dog owner does not require a previous vicious attack. The so-called “one bite free” rule does not apply to dog owners whose dog injures another person. According to the California Code section 3342(a), dog bite liability attaches to a dog owner if it inures another person “while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog.”
In the case of the 7-year-old in New Zealand, the family were invited guests onto the property of the dog owners where the attack occurred. Regardless of whether the animals had been peaceful until the day of the attack, California law would hold the dog owner responsible for any damage resulting from the dog’s bites.
Had the attack involved a postal worker or other city or government employee lawfully carrying out his duties, the same liability applies. Even if a stranger has implied consent to be on the property—such as opening the front door to greet a Girl Scout selling cookies— the statutes’ liability would likely apply.
If you have suffered a dog bite injury, or have questions about whether California’s dog-bite statute applies to your situation, contact a knowledgeable Sherman Oaks dog bite injury attorney.