Our office represents a six year old boy who was viciously attacked by an American Pit Bull Terrier. The insurance company for the dog owner is attempting to diminish the six year old boy’s claim by arguing (1) the pit bull never exhibited aggressive or vicious behavior prior to the attack; and (2) the six year old boy provoked the dog. It is our position the insurance company is wrong for the following reasons:
- "The American Pit Bull Terrier breed possesses inherent characteristics of aggression, strength, viciousness and unpredictability not found in any other breeds of dog…[P]it bulls are especially dangerous due to their unpredictability. It is impossible to tell from looking at a pit bull whether it is aggressive or not. American Pit Bull Terriers have been known to be friendly and docile at one moment, willing to sit on your lap and lick your face, and at the next moment to attack in a frenzied rage. A pit bull in the grip of such a fighting frenzy will not respond to attempts to deter its attack. Such frenzies can occur at any time and for no apparent reason.’ Garcia vs. Village of Tijeras, 767 P.2d 355 (NM App 1988). New Mexico jury instruction 13-506 Liability of dog owner states as follows:
"An owner of a dog is liable for damages proximately caused by the dog if the owner knew, or should have known, that the dog was vicious or had a tendency or natural inclination to be vicious. The owner of such a dog is not liable to the person injured, if the injured person had knowledge of the propensities of the dog and wantonly excited it or voluntarily and unnecessarily put himself in the way of the dog."
Based on the language cited in the opinion of Garcia vs. Village of Tijeras and jury instruction 13-506, the dog owner should have known the pit bull had a natural inclination to be vicious.
- New Mexico jury instruction 13-1606 No negligence for child under seven reads as follows:
"You must not consider whether plaintiff was negligent. A child under the age of seven (7) is incapable of negligence under the laws of New Mexico."
Based on this jury instruction, the six year old boy cannot be held liable for causing his own injuries, as a matter of law.
The six year old boy sustained injuries to his head and body requiring over 300 stitches. His medical bills are in excess of $100,000.00. At Keller & Keller, LLC, we see insurance companies routinely assert frivolous defenses such as those asserted in this case, in an attempt to get the claimant to accept a reduced settlement. Do not let an insurance company take advantage of you by accepting a settlement for less than its fair value. If you find yourself in a situation similar to this, call Keller & Keller, LLC immediately at (800) 253-5537.