Recently, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a woman who was seriously injured while volunteering at a local dog park. The case required the court to determine if the signage outside the park indicating that visitors enter at their own risk absolved the defendant dog owner of liability. Ultimately, the court concluded that the sign did not contain the necessary words “bad dog,” as outlined by statute.The case is important for all personal injury claimants because, while Alabama employs different legal standards than those applied in this case, it shows how literal courts can be when interpreting language in a statute. Whether a court is interpreting the language of a prior court’s opinion or the text contained in a statute, this case shows just how narrowly courts may interpret language, depending on the statute and the situation, making the assistance of a dedicated Alabama personal injury attorney all the more necessary.

The Facts of the Case

Here, the plaintiff was a volunteer at a local dog park. One day, the plaintiff was at the park volunteering when the defendant arrived with her dog. At some point, the defendant’s dog was chasing another dog when it collided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell to the ground, breaking her leg. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant, claiming that under the state’s strict liability statute for injuries caused by animals, the defendant was liable for her injuries. The defendant responded by arguing that the signage in front of the dog park, indicating that visitors enter at their own risk, put the plaintiff on notice of the risks involved with volunteering, and, therefore, she assumed the risk of injury.

As noted above, the state where the case arose (that is, Florida) employs a strict liability scheme when it comes to injuries caused by animals. Thus, when someone is injured by an animal, that person does not need to establish that the animal’s owner was negligent in order to establish liability. In other words, proving ownership is sufficient. However, the statute does provide an exception when there is a sign outside the area where the dog is kept, displaying the words “bad dog.”

Here, however, the court rejected the defendant’s argument because the sign outside the dog park did not specifically contain the words “bad dog.” The court explained that the legislature was clear in its intent to provide a narrow exception to the strict liability scheme and that it was not the court’s job to create a broader exception than was contained in the text. Thus, the court rejected the defendant’s argument and reversed the lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant.

The court did note that the jury would have the opportunity to assess the plaintiff’s negligence in bringing about her injuries under the state’s comparative fault rule. Essentially, the jury will be able to assign the plaintiff a percentage of fault, if it believes doing so is necessary, and the plaintiff’s ultimate award amount will be reduced by that percentage.

Have You Been Injured in an Alabama Dog Attack?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Alabama accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Greg Reeves is a dedicated Alabama personal injury lawyer with extensive experience assisting victims and their families in seeking the compensation they deserve from the parties responsible for their injuries. Attorney Reeves offers victims a free consultation to discuss their case and explain how he can help them obtain the damages they deserve. To learn more, call 256-355-3311 to schedule a free consultation today.