An Update from Our Firm about COVID-19

Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner remains fully operational and committed to serving our clients and colleagues throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. As we follow the CDC guidelines and practice social distancing, we remain available for phone consultations and scheduled in-person meetings with both current and prospective clients and colleagues. Please contact our office by email or by calling 713-222-7211 with any questions. We look forward to hearing from you.

Attacks by Animals

A week ago, police were called to rescue a postal worker and a woman walking her dog from two dogs who attacked them. The postal worker was treated at a hospital for multiple bite wounds.

Attacks by animals occur far too frequently, resulting occasionally in serious injury or even death. What responsibility does the animal's owner bear? Texas law creates several categories for analyzing cases of injuries caused by animals. For instance, owners of wild animals - like tigers or coyotes - are strictly liable when their animals attack people.

Another category comprises animals with "vicious" tendencies. Courts do not define a "vicious" or "aggressive" animal. But one example was a hog that had repeatedly charged a neighbor. "If an animal is vicious or has aggressive tendencies and the owner has knowledge of that propensity, the owner can be subject to liability under the law of strict liability." Labaj v. VanHouten, 322 S.W.3d 416 (Tex.App.-Amarillo 2010, no pet.). Therefore, liability requires proof of two elements: 1) the animal has vicious or aggressive tendencies; and 2) the owner knows of those propensities.

A final category, which may include most attacks by animals (often dogs), addresses animals that are not vicious. "[I]f an animal is non-vicious, the owner may still be subject to liability for negligent handling of the animal...Therefore, generally, '[t]he gist of an action to recover for injury caused by a domestic animal...is usually negligence of the owner or keeper in the keeping or handling of the animal.'" Labaj, id. at 420. According to Labaj, the injured person must prove that the owner of the animal owed a duty to exercise reasonable care of it, failed to do so, and the animal caused the injury.

Even when the dog does not have "dangerous propensities abnormal to its class," the claimant may succeed by "establishing that the owner had...notice of facts that would put an ordinary person on notice that the animal could cause harm and the owner was negligent in preventing such harm." Labaj, id. at 421. The bottom line is that, for animals not considered to be "vicious," the person possessing the animal must be aware of the nature of its breed and its circumstances, and take reasonable precautions to prevent harm.

The so-called "one free bite" or "one bite rule" posits that the owner cannot be liable for the first time that his dog bites someone. But that is not the law in Texas. Still, the dog's history of aggressiveness - or lack thereof - helps determine the nature of the duty owed by the owner.

Lastly, exercising "reasonable care" includes complying with the "leash law." This is something of a misnomer, because an ordinance may not actually require a leash, but rather might compel the owner to keep his animal under control. Most municipalities have passed laws which impose this obligation. In the City of Houston, for instance, Section 6-3 of the Houston Code of Ordinances prohibits owners of domestic animals from permitting them to "run at large."

Pets can provide wonderful companionship to their owners. But owners must take responsibility to keep them from attacking and injuring others.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of an animal attack, contact the attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend by calling 713-396-3964 or 1-800-594-4884.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • $50+ Million Fire & Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs, taking a lead role in the plaintiffs’ steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Plant Fire & Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Worksite Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm’s client.

  • $12 Million 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $48 Million Catastrophic Burns

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $48 million.

Our Record Of Success

When you are hurt and you choose a law firm to represent you in court or at the negotiation table, you need to carefully consider the firm's record.

Read More Success Stories

Let Us Help You Request a Free Consultation Today

Get Help Now

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

Back to top