Indiana Dog Bite Liability Appellate Decision 2022

Damon Daniels v. Jeffrey Drake, et al.
Indiana Court of Appeals
September 9, 2022 (No. 22A-CT-00068)

“Indiana law has specifically addressed the question of liability for injury causedby domestic animals. In Pozanski v. Horvath, 788 N.E.2d 1255 (Ind. 2003), our Supreme Court rejected the notion that a first-time, unprovoked biting is sufficient by itself for a jury to infer that the dog’s owner knew, or should have known, of the dog’s dangerous or vicious tendencies. Id. at 1259. In so holding, the Court explained that owners may be liable for harm caused by their domestic pet “but only if the owner knows or has reason to know that the animal has dangerous propensities.” Id. Such knowledge, however, may be constructive rather than actual. Id. As is particularly relevant here, the Court explained as follows:

[T]he owner is bound to know the natural tendencies of the particular class of animals to which the dog belongs. If the propensities of the class to which the dog belongs are the kind which one might reasonably expect would cause injury, then the owner must use reasonable care to prevent injuries from occurring.

Thus, where there is no evidence of an owner’s actual knowledge that his or her dog has dangerous propensities, the owner may nonetheless be held liable provided there is evidence that the particular breed to which the dog belongs has dangerous propensities. And this is so even where the owner’s dog has never before attacked or bitten anyone. See, e.g., Holt v. Myers, 47 Ind.App. 118, 93 N.E. 1002, 1002-03 (1911) (observing that the ferocious nature of a bulldog was sufficient to provide the owner with constructive notice of the dog’s dangerous propensities).” – Indiana Supreme Court

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