The Kentucky Supreme Court has just issued a decision clarifying how liabilty and responsibility will be adjudged and allocated where someone is injured by an attacking or biting dog. The case is Maupin v. Tankersley.
Maupin went hunting in Jackson County with her boyfriend. She tired and decided to return to her vehicle. On the way, she apparently crossed onto Tankersley's property although apparently on an easement that Tankersley had granted "Maupin's family to access her aunt's property with Tankersley's consent." Maupin was attacked and injured badly by "a pack of four or five dogs." Maupin sued Tankersley for her injuries caused by the dogs. The trial court made big mistakes during the trial, and the case came to the Kentucky Supreme Court to decide how liability and responsibility for Maupin's injuries should be decided by the jury.
First, Tankersley, if the dogs were shown to be owned by him, would be strictly liable for the injuries they caused Maupin, the rule being, the Court explained, "a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused when his dog attacks a person."
Second, Maupin's own fault, if any, should be considered in measuring the damages awarded to her, the rule being, "it is appropriate for the jury, during the calculation of damages phase, to lessen the liable owner's monetary responsibility for the victim's injuries if the facts demonstrate that the victim's own negligent or intentional acts contributed to the dog attack's occurrence." The Court, however, declined to offer a rule regarding what Maupin should do or not do as to any fault she may have.
Dog bite cases are going to vary and vary a lot depending on their particular circumstances. For instance, Maupin was on Tankersley's property: was she trespassing or was she in a place where she was allowed to be given the past easement? Did she know about Tankersley's dogs and that they might be inclined to attack her or someone else on his property? The case doesn't tell us these facts, but they will determine what happens in terms of the damages, if any, that Maupin is awarded.
Lexington, Kentucky injury lawyer Robert Abell can be reached at 859-254-7076.