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.

Texas Supreme Court Invokes the Political Question Doctrine to Dismiss Dog Bite Case

Like motor vehicle collisions, dog bite cases are not uncommon. Just as drivers are held responsible for the injuries they cause if they negligently cause a wreck, dog owners are held responsible if their dog bites someone due to the owner's negligence or if the dog is known to be "vicious, dangerous or mischievous." However, one of the more bizarre outcomes of a dog bite case was seen recently. The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the case under a constitutional doctrine that most of the public has never heard of and even most lawyers would only vaguely remember from their first year of law school-the "political question" doctrine.

The case is called American K-9 Detection Services, LLC v. Freeman. In this case, the plaintiff, Latasha Freeman, a civilian employee of a private military contractor, was walking near a checkpoint in an Army forward operating base in northern Afghanistan when, she alleges, an explosive-detection dog owned by another contractor escaped from its pen and attacked her. In addition to filing and settling a claim against her employer under the Defense Base Act, a federal workers compensation statute, Freeman sued the two contractors who trained the dog and provided the dog's handler, American K-9 Detection Services, LLC and Hill Country Dog Center, LLC.

American K-9 Detection Services argued that the Army, not it, was responsible for Freeman's injuries because the Army had not properly designed the kennel, allowing the dog to escape. It then moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the case presented a nonjusticiable "political question" because.

The political question doctrine holds that courts do not have jurisdiction to judicially review "those controversies which revolve around policy choices and value determinations constitutionally committed for resolution to" the legislative and executive branches. It is considered a function of separation of powers implicit in both the United States Constitution and Texas Constitution.

In a rare application of this doctrine to a personal injury case, Chief Justice Hecht, writing for the Court, held that "Army's decisions about designing and constructing the kennels are unreviewable military decisions because they go to the equipping of the military, constitutionally committed to the federal political branches," and that the American K-9 Detection Services' defense presented a question that was "not a question a Texas court can answer." Because of this "inextricable political question" which was raised by the defendant, not the plaintiff, the plaintiff's claim had to be dismissed.

The Supreme Court also dismissed the case against Hill Country Dog Center, even though Hill Country did not join in the motion to dismiss, because it "favor[s] early resolution of justiciability issues[."

Justices Eva Guzman and John Devine both authored dissents. Justice Guzman wrote that the majority's decision "turns on a dangerous misapplication of the political question and runs counter to our plea-to-the-jurisdiction practice." Both justices faulted the Supreme Court for failing to allow Freeman to put on evidence to dispute American K-9 Detection Services' defense and for viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendants, rather than the plaintiff as is normally required when ruling on such a plea.

Any way you look at it, it is certainly one of the most unusual legal outcomes of a personal injury case in Texas this year.

If you or someone you know has been injured by the fault of another, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or 1-800-594-4884 for your free consultation.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information
  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and 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 Personal Injury Large 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 Personal Injury Plant Fire and 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 Personal Injury Work Site 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 Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

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

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 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

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.


Privacy Policy

Back to top