Articles Posted in Animal/Dog Bites

cow_beef_alm_cows-1024x683What happens when a cow crosses a road? Although that might sound like the start of a joke, that is the situation Zaine Kasem found herself in after being run over by a cow that escaped from a herd owned by Joyce B. Williams and H.R. Williams Cattle Company (“HRW”). 

There had been a heavy rainstorm. One of HRW’s employees inspected the pasture and fence, but he did not see any damage caused by the storm. Nonetheless, a cow escaped from the herd through a damaged fence and entered Kasem’s front yard in St. Gabriel, Louisiana. Kasem described the scene as a “circus” with many people running around trying to capture the cow. Finally, she went outside to see what was happening, and the cow ran into her, knocked her into the bed of a truck, and caused her to suffer injuries to her eye, nose, back, and neck, requiring medical treatment and pain and suffering.

Kasem sued Williams and HRW, claiming they breached the duty under La. C.C. art. 2321 to restrain their cattle and prevent them from entering other properties, injuring others, or otherwise causing damage. Williams and HRW filed a motion for summary judgment in response to the lawsuit.

Horse bite lawsuitFeeding a horse a treat can seem all fun and games until the horse bites you. This is a lesson Danielle Larson, a visitor to Equest Farm in City Park in New Orleans, learned the hard way in 2013 when a horse bit her while she was feeding it a carrot. 

Larson was from Illinois but came to New Orleans often to visit her boyfriend. She had ridden horses since childhood and had been previously shown the correct way to feed a horse. Larson had been visiting Equest Farm for a few years before the horse bit her in September 2013. Larson went to see the school horses on the day of the incident. On her way there, two riders told her to be careful because, at the school, ponies had purportedly bitten a child. While Larson was feeding a horse a carrot, the horse knocked the carrot from her hand, and then the horse bit off her thumb as she reached for the dropped carrot. As a result, Larson required extensive medical care and will likely have to use a prosthetic thumb or transfer a toe to her hand.

There was some dispute about whether there was a sign posted warning people not to feed the horses. The horse at issue overall had a good reputation but had previously bitten a child who had held the horse’s ears while riding him. 

9-819x1024In the typical employee-employer relationship there is a certain aspect of trust. For the employer, they must trust that the employee is doing their job properly, and the employee must trust the employer will ensure a safe environment to perform their job. This case deals with a situation involving the trust of a safe workplace, and answers the question if an injury can be considered “on the job” if symptoms do not materialize for days following the accident.

On April 8, 2013, Deborah Gaines was going through her typical work routine for Home Care and was tending to a client. While tending to the client, Ms. Gaines was bitten on her right leg by the client’s dog. As a result of the bite, Ms. Gaines immediately felt an injury in her right leg, and a few days later she began to feel pain in her back. The day after the incident, Ms. Gaines filed a report with her employer, Home Care, to receive indemnity benefits and medical expenses from the accident. Home Care then responded to Ms. Gaines saying she did not sustain an “accident” according to the Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Act.

In response, Ms. Gaines filed a suit against her employer in March 2015, and the trial court decided that Ms. Gaines had suffered a work-related injury and awarded her disability benefits, past medical expenses, and reasonable future medical expenses related to her injury. Home Care appealed this decision, arguing that Ms. Gaines’ back pain was not a work-related injury and that Ms. Gaines did not suffer from a temporary total disability.

animal-bark-black-wallpaper-2238-1024x683Imagine you sign a lease at a complex that does not allow pets, but then you walk outside your home and are attacked by a dog. Who is liable? The owner of the animal, the landlord for not preventing the animal from being on the premises, or both? In most states, Louisiana no exception, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries to persons and property caused by their animal. La. C.C. art. 2321. Strict liability means that the owner of the animal is liable for damages caused by the animal regardless of if the owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensity or not. To prove landlord liability, as in the current case, the plaintiff must show that the landlord had actual knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensity to make a successful claim for damages caused by a tenant’s dog against a landlord. Compagno v. Monson, 580 So.2d 962 (La. Ct. App. 1991).

In this case, Ms. Coburn was attacked by a dog owned by Ms. Dixon when they were both living in a complex where Mr. Bernard was the landlord. Ms. Coburn sued Mr. Bernard alleging that he failed to warn of the dangerous propensities of the dog and failed to eliminate the danger of the dog. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Bernard because he provided an affidavit that he did not allow dogs on the premises pursuant to the lease agreements and was unaware of the violent propensity of the animal.

On appeal, Ms. Coburn argued that Mr. Bernard should have reasonably known that Ms. Dixon had a vicious dog on the premises, as he owned and ran a restaurant that many cops in town frequented. Thus, he should have been aware that the police had been called to the premises on numerous occasions because the dog was barking or roaming loose.

animal-brown-horse-6468-1024x683Horses are majestic animals but can be dangerous depending on the nature of the activities they are performing. The Equine Immunity Statute provides certain immunities to equine sponsors that own with horses that engage in certain equine activities. See La. R.S. 9:2795:3. “Participants” in equine activities cannot sue equine sponsors but mere “spectators” can, with limited exceptions. While the Equine Immunity Statute gives broad protections, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently found that a horse bite accident should proceed to a jury trial and not be settled as a matter of law by a trial judge. So, what are your legal steps after being bit by a horse in Louisiana?

The plaintiff visited the defendant’s facility and inquired about feeding and visiting the defendant’s horses. The defendant owned several horses and provided educational opportunities to New Orleans residents who were interested in learning and interacting with horses. The defendant also provided boarding services for outside horse owners. On September 23, 2013, a few days after her first visit, plaintiff returned with carrots to feed the defendant’s horses. While the main office was closed that day, she encountered two outside horse owners who told her that a “pony” had been known to have bitten a child recently. Plaintiff went to the boarding area and fed three of the defendant’s horses. While she was feeding the third horse, she was bit on her hand.

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s holding that the defendant was entitled to immunity as a matter of law. The court held that the trial court applied an overly broad definition and interpretation of “participant.” Determining whether someone qualified as a participant must be done by a jury, or trier of fact. Statutes that provide immunity must be strictly construed against the party claiming said immunity. See Medine v. Geico Gen. Ins. Inc., 748 So.2d 532, 535 (La. App. Ct. 1999).

tahoe-beetschen-1368685-unsplash-1024x683The bond between people and their dogs can be one as close as family. Whether they serve as pets, guides, or even co-workers, dogs can provide a type of comfort and comradeship that is completely unique. It is sometimes easy to forget that dogs are animals that can chase, scratch, and even bite on a moment’s notice. While most people don’t like to believe that their canine companions would hurt others, many dogs—even the most docile or trained—are capable of causing harm quickly, and it is important to know how to handle these situations. This issue was explored in a case appealed to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal after an incident at Louisiana State University.

On October 20, 2012, the Kiwanis Club Pancake Festival (“Pancake Festival”) was in full swing at the Louisiana State University Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Officers Matthew Hall and Johnny Sparks attended the event. Officer Hall brought and was in charge of his K-9, Sita, a Belgian Malinois. Officer Sparks brought a robot that the state police use for detecting explosives. The officers stayed outside of the Pancake Festival to educate the public about Sita and the purpose of the robot. During the event, patrons had permission to approach and pet Sita.

Fredericka Bradley, a 10-year-old child, attended the Pancake Festival with her mother, Hazel Bradley, her cousin, Preston Henderson, and two neighbor children, Bradisa White and Sade Townsend. After eating breakfast, Mrs. Bradley stayed inside while the children went outside. At this point, each party in the litigation has a different story as to how events unfolded. According to Officer Hall, Sita sat next to him—leashed—as patrons came up to them. Fredericka approached and asked pet Sita. She also tried to hug the dog, but Hall told her not to. Fredericka walked away, then returned to pet Sita again. Officer Hall was sitting with Sita, speaking to a man and two children when Fredericka came up a third time. Officer Hall claimed Fredericka tried to sit on Sita, so he pulled Fredericka away and reminded her only petting was allowed. While Officer Hall pet Sita’s neck, Fredericka came behind the dog and pet her head. Sita snapped at the child and bit her on the face, leaving a small puncture wound. Officer Hall stated Sita had not shown any aggression prior to the incident.

dog-1534524-1024x768Litigation between family members can be uncomfortable for everyone involved. But what happens when a plaintiff sues a relative, then passes away, and the relative then becomes the plaintiff? Louisiana’s Second Circuit Court of Appeal recently addressed this unusual situation in a case involving a vicious dog attack.

In May of 2011, Evelyn Goers, 89, was visiting her daughter Laureen Mayfield in Simsville, Louisiana. Goers was attacked and injured by four of Mayfield’s large Tibetan Mastiffs. In May 2012, Goers filed a lawsuit for damages against Mayfield and her homeowner’s insurance company, State Farm. Goers passed away in February 2015, after which Goers’s other daughter, Cheryl Goers, filed a petition to substitute herself as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against Mayfield. The next month, Mayfield made a motion to substitute herself as a plaintiff. The trial court granted both motions. State Farm then filed an exception based on the theory that there was no right of action because Mayfield was both plaintiff and a defendant, thus extinguishing the obligation by confusion. La. C.C. art. 1903. Cheryl Goers filed a response requesting that State Farm’s exception be sustained without a hearing but did not include a proposed judgment to that effect. State Farm then submitted a proposed order granting the exception. Cheryl Goers raised no objection to this action by State Farm. The trial court signed State Farm’s order, dismissing Goers from the lawsuit entirely as both defendant and plaintiff. Cheryl Goers then filed an appeal arguing that the trial court’s order was improper because it extinguished her right of action against Mayfield; an exception for no right of action, she argued, can dismiss a plaintiff, but not a defendant from an action.

Under Louisiana law, an appeal cannot be made by a party who voluntarily and unconditionally accepted without protest a judgment rendered against that party. La. C.C.P. art. 2085. State Farm conceded that under the Direct Action Statute, Cheryl Goers could still maintain a claim against State Farm. La. Rev. Stat. 22:1269 (2012), The Direct Action Statute requires that insurance policies issued in the state provide that the heirs or survivors of any claimant under the policy can maintain the claim. However, as for Cheryl Goers’s action against her sister, the Court of Appeal noted that she voluntarily and unconditionally accepted the trial court’s order without protest because she agreed with the exception and did not oppose the order when the trial court approved it. Therefore, reasoning that Cheryl Goers lacked a basis for the appeal, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

on-patrol-1565455-1-1024x683Over the last few years, we have all seen the videos of police arrest that seem to involve excessive methods. These videos stoke controversy and encourage a discussion on what constitutes “excessive force” during an arrest. Even with video evidence, the actions of the police and the arrestee are subject to multiple interpretations. The search for the truth becomes even harder when the arrest is not videoed and the participants all give different testimony on those events. The following case out of Shreveport Louisiana demonstrates how the Civil court system handles differing testimony on allegations of excessive force during an arrest.

In July of 2012, Bobby Byrd filed a lawsuit as a result of what he alleged was the use of excessive force during an arrest against Roy Shore of the Bossier Police Department and W.W. Lindsey and Robert Gordon of the Shreveport Police Department. Mr. Byrd’s excessive force claims revolve around a police chase of Mr. Byrd.  It all started when Detective Gordon, believing that the vehicle that Mr. Byrd drove at the time matched a vehicle tied to a string of burglaries, attempted to pull over Mr. Byrd.  Instead of stopping, Mr. Byrd drove away from the police officer, crossing from Shreveport to Bossier.  Eventually, Mr. Byrd abandoned his vehicle at the Red River and proceeded on foot into the Red River.  The police, with a police canine in hand, continued after Mr. Byrd.  During this pursuit, the riverbank caved in, causing the police canine to fall into the river.  The officer holding the canine, Officer Yarborough of the Shreveport Police Department, released the canine’s leash.  The police canine, instead of listening to the Officer Yarborough’s order to return to the riverbank, pursued Mr. Byrd and bit him.  Mr. Byrd fought back, disorienting the police canine and causing the canine to retreat back to the riverbank.  The officers eventually retrieved Mr. Byrd from the river.

It is at this point that the stories of Mr. Byrd and the police officers diverge.  Mr. Byrd claims that after returning to the riverbank he fully complied with the officers’ requests and that after the police officers handcuffed him they proceeded to strike him.  In contrast, the police officers claim that Mr. Byrd did not comply with their instructions and that Mr. Byrd reached towards his waistband which was submerged underwater.  The officers, believing that Mr. Byrd could have a weapon in his waistband, deployed “distraction strikes” in order to subdue Mr. Byrd. Regardless of the stories, Mr. Byrd suffered multiple injuries: “a dog bite wound, wounds to the forearms, a broken nose, a broken orbital floor requiring surgical reconstruction with a titanium plate, kidney trauma, and abrasions to his ribs” because of this incident.

It is vital to know proper court procedures at the outset of litigation or else an otherwise valid claim might be thrown out of court without ever being heard. One prime example is the need to send initial court documents to a defendant within a set deadline (sending such documents, such as a citation or summons, is known as service of process). Case in point, the Lafayette Parish Court of Appeal, in Boka v. Oller, recently upheld the dismissal of a claim without even considering the merits because service of process was delivered too late. Therefore, it is important to know the rules before bringing a lawsuit or a good claim might be lost due to a mere technicality, such as delivering papers too late. For a non-lawyer, an attorney can be instrumental in making sure proper procedures are followed so that the party has a chance to present their case in court.

In Lafayette Parish, Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 1201 requires that service of the citation must be requested within a deadline of ninety days from commencement of the action. Article 1201 also notes that service of process on defendants is “essential” and “without them all proceedings are absolutely null.” The deadline for service is to ensure that defendants are aware of an action and have enough to prepare. Therefore, as a delay in service is deemed unfair to the defendant, a court may dismiss a claim if service of process is sent too late.

There are some limited exceptions to the rule, but, due to the risks involved in these exceptions, generally a party should attempt to serve process on time. For example, one exception permits late service if there is good cause for the delay. However, as the court is unlikely to accept run-of-the-mill excuses for delays, proving a good cause for failure to serve process on time can be difficult. As noted below, the court in Lafayette Parish found that there was no good cause for late service as the plaintiff knew the defendant’s address.

Under Louisiana law, there are very specific rules about how to properly serve someone, and one of the important aspects of service that an attorney has to get right is the timing of it. Furthermore, not only does the service have to be carried out in a timely manner, but it also has to be perfected properly.

This particular Supreme Court of Louisiana case dealt with service on a state entity, and it is important for your attorney to be aware of any differences that exist with regard to service requirements depending on who the other party is. According to the applicable state law, La. R.S. 13:850, “perfecting” a service request requires that the appropriate filing fees and transmission fees have been received by the clerk of the court and that the original signed document has been received by the clerk. All of this must be received within the proper timeframe. As stated in La. R.S. 13:850, the proper timeframe for perfection in this case is seven days.

In this case, the service request was received within the required ninety-day timeframe (ninety days since the filing of the petition), and the service request was perfected five days later once the requisite documents and fee payments were received by the clerk of the court. The question then is whether or not this counts as proper request for service: Was the request for service properly received within ninety days even though perfection of the request was outside of that ninety-day timeframe?

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