The Boston Herald is reporting that in a rare move, the Massachusetts Appeals Court will allow a dog bite case against a police dog to go forward.
In 2011, Rick Dudley was attacked a State Police K-9 by mistake. The dog, known as Jager, was supposed to be going after another person who was running from police after getting out of his truck. Instead, the 80-pound police dog went after Dudley, who was in a park-and-ride lot for commuters at the time. The incident left Dudley with a large bite wound on his leg and two puncture wounds to his stomach, in addition to trauma that he is still seeing a counselor to heal. Dudley, who once loved dogs, is now understandably afraid of them.
Two years later, in 2013, Dudley sued the Massachusetts State Police over the incident, but the judge threw the case out in 2015, saying the police had immunity because they were a government entity. However, Dudley appealed the decision and the Massachusetts Appeals Court sided with him, taking the position that the police no longer had their immunity privilege when a trooper caused a condition that resulted in injury to someone else. Jager’s handler, State Trooper Edward Blackwell, released the dog into the lot after a high-speed chase for suspect William P. Monopoli. The suspect had jumped over a fence into the commuter lot, which was full of people at the time, and that’s when the trooper let go of Jager’s leash.
Instead of going after Monopoli, the dog went after the innocent Rick Dudley, who was dropping off his coworker at the time. According to the appeals court’s decision, the police dog was around 15 feet away from Dudley when he jumped and bit the victim on the stomach. At this point, Trooper Blackwell yelled to Dudley that he needed to get inside his vehicle and lock the doors. Dudley attempted to do so, but the police dog latched onto his leg and dragged him back out of the vehicle. Because the trooper made the choice to release Jager into the crowded lot and therefore created a condition that could result in harm to a person, the appeals court found that the police had lost their immunity.
Dog bite cases against police dogs are not common, but they have been happening more often in recent years. As reported by the Mercury News, for example, a jury in California awarded a police dog bite victim $1.1 million dollars. In that case, the police released a K9 dog into a construction yard after receiving reports that the yard’s security alarm had gone off. The dog then attacked 64-year-old Richard May, who was just trying to rescue his neighbor’s cat after being unable to successfully contact the yard’s owners in person or by phone.
If you or someone you care about has been harmed by a dangerous dog, whether that dog is a police dog or neighborhood pet, speak to an experienced dog bite lawyer Denver CO relies on about your rights today.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into dog bite cases.