Legislator Gets Sued for Dog Biting Incident: Strict Liability v. Negligence

When patrons enter a restaurant to enjoy some delicious food and beverages with friends, it is safe to say they expect a certain level of safety, not only in their food but their surroundings. An incident occurred in Florida this summer with a patron – the patron got bit in the face by a dog. The patron has decided to sue the dog owner. In the unfortunate event this happens to you, our Panama City dog bite lawyers can advocate for you and help you recover monetary damages.

WJHG reports that Florida Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton) has been sued for his dog biting someone in the face. According to the complaint filed by Christopher Kent, the victim, Representative Gaetz' dog, Scarlett, bit the victim in the 101 Restaurant & Lounge in Tallahassee. Unprovoked, the dog bit Kent in the face, causing bodily injury. The plaintiff alleges to have suffered disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish and continued severe pain and discomfort. Additionally, due to the medical complications he suffered from the incident, Kent withdrew from law school.

Florida Dog Bite Law: Strict Liability

As previously state in another blog, Florida laws protect victims of dog bites. Pursuant to Section 767.04 of the Florida Statute, the owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place is strictly liable for the damages suffered by the person. The law does not require the owner to have any knowledge of any previous vicious behavior on the account of the dog. It's reported that the Kent was "drunk" at the time of the incident. In this case, Representative Gaetz may be able to utilize Section 767.04 and argue that Kent’s negligence contributed to the biting incident, thereby reducing the liability of the dog owner.

Negligence Per Se: An Alternative to Strict Liability

Negligence Per Se can be an alternative legal route to the Section 767.04. A victim can bring a claim under the negligence per se doctrine when a person has violated a law, ordinance, or regulation which resulted in the victim's injuries. The law must be meant to protect the public, and a violation of this law is the basis of liability.

Examples of related laws include:

  1. Dog leash law.
  2. At-large law.
  3. Canine trespass.

The dog leash law requires a dog be on a leash when off the owner's property. At-large laws required the dog be confined when off the owner’s property. Trespass laws forbid dogs to be on the private property of another without permission.

In a pure negligence case, a person is liable for damages upon a showing that the person acted unreasonably or without care of that of a reasonably prudent person. Unlike negligence, a victim will not need to prove that a reasonable person should have acted differently in a negligence per se claim. The act of violating the law is automatically considered negligent. Thereby, only the elements of causation and damages will need to be proven by the victim.

If you have been injured by a dog bite, contact our experienced Panama City injury lawyers for assistance in recovering compensation that the law allows.

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