Our client, a 52-year-old woman, was standing at the corner of 21st and Jackson Streets in Philadelphia when a man approached her while walking his dog, a 60-pound white bull terrier named “Little Johnny Rambo.” Our client asked the owner for permission to pet the dog, and the owner allowed her to do so. After our client pet the dog, suddenly the dog lunged at our client and bit her right index finger. Our client naturally recoiled and sat on a nearby stoop to get out of harm’s way and to observe the extent of her hand injury. But the owner failed to keep the dog away, and the dog then lunged a second time at our client and bit her a second time, this time on the left leg. According to a Philadelphia police officer who witnessed the incident, the bite was the size of a baseball.
The dog owner was negligent by, among other things, failing to prevent his dog from reaching and biting our client’s leg – given the first bite of our client’s hand, no dog owner should ever allow that to happen. Under Pennsylvania’s Dog Law, a dog owner is guilty of harboring a dangerous dog where that animal has inflicted severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property; and where that dog has a propensity to attack human beings and/or domestic animals, dogs, or cats without provocation. A propensity to attack can be proven by a single incident. Here, the unprovoked bite of our client’s finger, followed by a second unprovoked baseball-sized bite taken from our client’s leg, is a textbook example of a case where an owner is liable for the injuries caused by his dog.
The dog owner refused to cooperate without litigation. Soon after we filed a lawsuit, we contacted the dog owner’s insurance carrier and secured for our client a settlement. By obtaining this result so early in the case, we were able to save our client thousands of dollars in litigation costs.