Dangerous Dog Traits: Jumping Dog
Dangerous dog traits; jumping dog, dogs chasing cars, people, skateboards and the like are actionable under the common law. The common law recognizes a strict liability theory of recovery where the dog is known to have a dangerous trait. This theory is derived from lines of horse cases where a horse is a domesticated animal as is a dog, and a particular horse has a dangerous trait abnormal to its character.
Common law strict liability is a theory of recovery you sue on. Another theory of recovery in certain states are dog bite statutes. Not all states have a dog bite statute.
Dog bite statutes generally apply to a “dog bite.” You may not be able to use such a dog bite statute where the dog has a dangerous trait other than viciousness. One such trait recognized in the case law is the case of the jumping dog. Serious injuries may result where a dog has a trait for jumping up on people which causes them to fall and be hurt. Whether the trait is dangerous is a question of fact.
For instance, if the dog is an adult great dane and it has the trait of jumping on small children, the trier of fact may find that this is a dangerous trait. If the owner of this dog knew or should have known of this dangerous trait there may be a finding of liability.
Further a theory of general negligence may be plead which is advantageous since the plaintiff may not need to plead whether the dog owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous trait nor whether the trait is dangerous! See Drake v. Dean 15 Cal. App. 4th 915. Some courts refer to “dangerous” trait as “mischievous” trait.
Practice Pointer* : Evidence that the dog owner’s had actual or constructive knowledge and whether the trait is dangerous may be helpful to support a finding of negligence. Note that the theory plead may affect any affirmative defenses.
In pleading negligence claims you may state the characteristics of the animal which, although not abnormal to its class, create a foreseeable risk of harm.
Dogs Chasing People
In other reported cases, dogs chasing vehicles or people resulting in injuries have been found to be “dangerous traits,”
The injuries caused by these dangerous dog traits may result in very serious injury or death. There are cases where people who were chased by dogs ran into traffic and were hit by cars. In short, it is not just dog bites which are actionable but under the common law known dangerous traits of dogs which cause injuries are also actionable.