Many of us heard the news yesterday as a pit bull kills one child and seriously injures another on their way to school in Atlanta. The children were simply walking to a bus stop when they were mauled by the dog. There are reports that a second dog was involved in the attack. Other children were cornered by the dogs, until a neighbor frightened them away. Both were taken to an area hospital, and one ultimately transferred to a trauma facility where he passed away.
The dogs owner was originally charged with two misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct. The charges were upgraded to one count of involuntary manslaughter.
While there may be debate in some circles, there is no question as to the law in a case like this if it were to happen here in California. The owner of the dogs would be strictly liable for the actions of his animals. In addition to criminal charges, the family would bring a civil lawsuit against the homeowners insurance or renters insurance of the dog’s owner. My name is Rivers Morrell and after more than 40 years of experience in fatal accidents and serious dog bite injuries it is still hard to read stories like this one.
It may be impossible to know what triggered the attack, but the liability remains squarely on the dog’s owner or controller to maintain control over the animal at all times. Dogs are to remain on the leash in California, and our strict liability laws hold dog owners financially accountable for their pet’s actions. Owners of pit bulls and other known breeds may find it difficult or impossible to obtain insurance. When a pit bull kills one child and seriously injures another there are many questions which must be asked. The question of who is financially responsible for the wrongful death of one child and serious injuries to another is crystal clear in California. If your dog bites and injures anyone you will be held financially responsible.