Dogs belonging to respected, award-winning actor Ving Rhames’ mauled their caretaker, Jacob Adams, 40, at the actor’s Los Angeles home today. Because authorities are saying that Adams may have died of a heart attack, however, it cannot be said at the present time that the dogs caused his death. He had worked with the dogs for two years, according to authorities.
Three of the dogs are mastiffs and one a bulldog. Mastiffs were bred as very large guard dogs. “What the Lion is to the Cat, the Mastiff is to the Dog.” (Cynographia Britannica, 1800.) Recall that Diane Whipple was killed by a Presa Canario, a type of mastiff. Other varieties include the Tibetan mastiff, which weighs up to 250 pounds (and commanded a price tag of over $500,000 within the past year).
While the family of the deceased might have a workers’ compensation claim against Rhames, they probably cannot sue him for wrongful death. This is because canine professionals of all sorts are presumed to have assumed the risk of injury by dogs in their care — at least where the dogs are of normal temperament. Only one year ago, the California Supreme Court reaffirmed this rule, which protects dog owners at the expense of groomers, walkers, petsitters, and others who are similarly engaged.