A dog bite victim in Louisiana can recover compensation under a special statute and the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort. There is an unusual element in the dog bite statute: Louisiana is a strict liability state provided that the owner could have prevented the injuries.

Statutory strict liability

The State of Louisiana has a dog bite statute, Louisiana Civil Code article 2321, which provides as follows:

The owner of an animal is answerable for the damage caused by the animal. However, he is answerable for the damage only upon a showing that he knew or, in the exercise of reasonable care, should have known that his animal's behavior would cause damage, that the damage could have been prevented by the exercise of reasonable care, and that he failed to exercise such reasonable care. Nonetheless, the owner of a dog is strictly liable for damages for injuries to persons or property caused by the dog and which the owner could have prevented and which did not result from the injured person's provocation of the dog. Nothing in this Article shall preclude the court from the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in an appropriate case.

In Pepper v. Triplet, 864 So.2d 181 (2004), the Louisiana Supreme Court held:

[T]o establish a claim in strict liability against a dog owner under La. Civ.Code art. 2321 as amended in 1996, the plaintiff must prove that his person or property was damaged by the owner's dog, that the injuries could have been prevented by the owner, and that the injuries did not result from the injured person's provocation of the dog. We hold that, to establish that the owner could have prevented the injuries under Article 2321, the plaintiff must show the dog presented an unreasonable risk of harm. 

The court stated that a plaintiff need show only that "the risk of injury outweighed the dog's utility such that it posed an unreasonable risk of harm. If the animal posed an unreasonable risk of harm, then the owner will be presumed to be at fault, because he failed to prevent an injury he could have prevented, and he will be held strictly liable for an injury caused by his dog, unless he can show that the injury was due solely to the fault of a third party unattributable to him or to a fortuitous event, or, as Article 2321 now provides, the plaintiff fails to establish that the injuries did not result from the injured person's provocation of the dog. (Id., at p. 194.)

Negligence

The handler of a dog will be held responsible for an accident caused by his negligence. Pepper v. Triplet, above,  set forth the requirements for a claim of negligence in the State of Louisiana:

In order for liability in negligence to attach under our traditional duty/ risk analysis, a plaintiff must prove five separate elements: (1) the defendant had a duty to conform his or her conduct to a specific standard of care (the duty element); (2) the defendant failed to conform his or her conduct to the appropriate standard (the breach of duty element); (3) the defendant's substandard conduct was a cause-in-fact of the plaintiff's injuries (the cause-in-fact element); (4) the defendant's substandard conduct was a legal cause of the plaintiff's injuries (the scope of liability or scope of protection element); and, (5) actual damages (the damages element). Davis v. Witt, 02-3102, 02-3110 (La.7/2/03), 851 So.2d 1119. (Id. at p. 199.)

Negligence based on violating an animal control law

The handler of a dog can be legally liable to a dog bite victim because of a violation of a leash law or other animal control law which could have prevented the accident. In Smolinski v. Taulli, 276 So.2d 286, 289 (La.1973), the Louisiana Supreme Court held that "[w]hile statutory violations are not in and of themselves definitive of civil liability, they may be guidelines for the court in determining standards of negligence by which civil liability is determined." 

For further information about these causes of action, see Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.

 

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