A Florida jury sent a powerful message to dog owners this week when it awarded Marie Tatman $1.26 million in compensation for a vicious Florida dog bite injury Tatman suffered in 2007. The attack occurred at Wickham Park in Melbourne, Florida, where the victim's daughter had entered her own dog in a dog show. According to an article by Florida Today, Tatman's lawyer said that the attack was unprovoked and that it occurred when his client was walking past the dog, an Akita. The dog grabbed her ankle in his mouth and bit down, crushing the bones in his teeth.
The dog's owner claimed that the attack had been provoked by Tatman tripping over her dog, but the jury did not believe that version of events, probably in part because of the Akita's violent history. The dog had previously bitten at least three other people, and owners had been told that he should not be put back into a home. However, his life was spared on the condition that he spend the rest of his life in a rural setting, away from people.
Our Palm Beach injury attorneys has explained to clients that under the Florida dog bite statute, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries or harm caused by their pets. However, the statute does allow a jury to consider contributory negligence. According to the language of the statute, "any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person's negligence contributed to the biting incident." In other words, the amount of money that the owner will have to pay the victim will be reduced if the victim was partially at fault for the dog biting him or her. This could happen if the victim somehow provoked the dog, either purposefully or negligently, such as when someone taunts or threatens a dog or steps on its tail. Because dogs do respond to certain things out of instinct, a court that is hearing a Florida dog bite lawsuit will take these issues into consideration in determining how much responsibility really lies with the owner.
However, depending on the evidence, these cases can result in substantial awards for those urt. In the case, the $1.26 million verdict will help Marie Tatman and her husband pay for many of the expenses that they have incurred because of the attack. Tatman's ankle was so badly mangled that she nearly lost her left foot, and even after five surgeries, her left leg is still about three inches shorter than her right leg. In addition to the medical bills incurred during treatment for the injuries, she will have to pay for custom made shoes to accommodate the difference in the lengths of her legs for the rest of her life. She also has other permanent mobility issues that will require her to use a walker to get around. More than anything, though, the verdict will allow Tatman to put the responsibility for what happened to her with the dog's owner and move on from this very difficult and painful chapter of her life.
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