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Bitten by a vicious dog? North Carolina dog bite cases

In North Carolina dog bite cases are common and the injures can be severe.  The old rule in North Carolina was that absent a leash law violation; there must be a prior violent action by the dog before there could be any recovery for a dog bite.  The law as set out below establishes what what must be shown to recover. "To establish the liability of the owner or keeper of a domestic animal for injury done to a human being there must be evidence that the animal had previously indicated its dangerous propensities and the owner or keeper had knowledge of it. But notwithstanding the old adage about every dog "being entitled to one bite," a dog bite victim does not have to show that the dog bit someone else earlier; he only has to show that the dog had demonstrated its vicious inclinations by trying to bite someone and that the owner or keeper had knowledge of it. Hill v. Moseley, 220 N.C. 485, 17 S.E.2d 676 (1941). "Knowledge of one attack by a dog is generally held sufficient to charge the owner with all its subsequent acts." 4 Am.Jur.2d Animals Sec. 95, p. 343 (1964). Finally, the wrong or fault in such cases is the keeping of a dangerous animal and liability does not depend upon proof that the owner was negligent in permitting it to run loose or in letting it escape, Hill v. Moseley, supra, though permitting a dangerous animal to run loose is certainly a circumstance to be considered in determining whether the tort was aggravated.  Hunt v. Hunt, 86 N.C. App. 323, 327, 357 S.E.2d 444, 447 aff'd, 321 N.C. 294, 362 S.E.2d 161 (1987)"  The law has continued to change and knowledge of the general propensities of dogs have now been found to be enough.  In other words, a pitbull that has been trained to kill or injure need not have previously bitten or attacked as the case below points out. "Initially, we note this Court has observed that "not all actions seeking recovery for damage caused by a domestic animal need involve the vicious propensity rule," Griner v. Smith, 43 N.C.App. 400, 407, 259 S.E.2d 383, 388 (1979), generally described as a strict liability type of determination relying upon "proof of vicious propensity and knowledge by the owner." Id. at 406, 259 S.E.2d at 387. Further, we have explained that in circumstances other than those concerning vicious propensity, [t]he owner of a domestic animal is chargeable with knowledge of the general propensities of certain animals and he must exercise due care to prevent injury from reasonably anticipated conduct. Id. at 407, 259 S.E.2d 383, 388. In Williams v. Tysinger, 328 N.C. 55, 399 S.E.2d 108 (1991), moreover, our Supreme Court discussed a mother's claim to recover medical expenses after her minor child was kicked in the head by a horse. Id. at 56, 399 S.E.2d at 109. Accordingly, the issue of the owner's negligence therein was not dependent upon the owner's knowledge of any vicious or dangerous propensities of the horse. Nonetheless, the Court held the owner was chargeable on a claim of negligence with knowledge of the general propensities of the horse, including "the *55 fact that the horse might kick without warning or might inadvertently step on a person." Id. 8 Although no case in this jurisdiction has invoked the Williams rule where the domestic animal was a dog, we conclude that application of the rule is appropriate on the facts herein.  Hill v. Williams, 144 N.C. App. 45, 54-55, 547 S.E.2d 472, 478 (2001)" Therefore the standard currently in North Carolina is in order to recover for a dog bite the dog need either have a vicious history or be of a breed that is known for viciousness.  A labrador retriever who has never previously bitten is still difficult to recover from the owner.  As dog bites are often vicious and dangerous the above law sets forward what is the basics to recover.

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