Court Orders New Trial in Dog Bite Case

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Back in 2011, Joan Kelly heard her chocolate Labrador “Moosie” making a loud noise in her backyard. When she went outside, Ms. Kelly saw her dog under attack from her neighbors’ pit bull. Ms. Kelly yelled for her neighbors, but they did not respond. Ms. Kelly then ran to the dogs and pulled the pit bull’s jaws off her dog. The pit bull continued the attack, chasing and biting “Moosie.” Ms. Kelly was finally able to end the attack, but not until the pit bull had bit her arm, which caused her to fall and injure her knee on the concrete ground.

Following the incident, Ms. Kelly sued her neighbors for the injuries she received during the pit bull attack. At trial, the neighbors claimed that Ms. Kelly was negligent by jumping in between the two dogs, and that her negligence caused her injuries. The trial court instructed the jury to consider Ms. Kelly’s negligence, but also to consider the “emergency doctrine,” which relieves a person from liability if the person if faced with an emergency that the person did not create. The jury did not find Ms. Kelly to be negligent, and awarded her damages for her injuries.

The neighbors appealed the jury verdict. The Court of Appeals of Wisconsin reversed the verdict and ordered a new trial. According to the court of appeals, the trial court should not have instructed the jury on the “emergency doctrine,” because Ms. Kelly had enough time to make a deliberate and intelligence choice to intervene between the two dogs. The court of appeals also concluded that the jury was likely confused by the verdict form with respect to Ms. Kelly’s claimed damages. Read the entire court of appeals opinion here.

The Wisconsin dog bite injury lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran have helped many people recover for injuries sustained in animal attacks. We assist clients in recovering for personal injuries, pain and suffering, and lost wages. If you or someone you know has been injured during an animal attack, contact us for a free online case evaluation.

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