P.I. Pulse: a Verdict Against Yamaha and a Reminder on “Dog Bite” Liability

Let’s start with the former: a case in which a woman from Pensacola, Florida, filed a lawsuit against the mega corporation Yamaha Motor Co. following an accident that she claims was caused by the faulty vehicle. Per her account, she was driving her 660 UTV Rhino when she went to make a simple right-hand turn; unfortunately, as she made the turn, the vehicle toppled over her, causing her significant injuries. She lost the initial lawsuit that she filed against Yamaha Motor Co,. the manufacturer of the Rhino, in which she claimed the vehicle was defective by design.

After losing her initial case, she filed an appeal, and the appeals court sent the case back to trial for a second time. In her second trial, her attorneys dutifully argued that Yamaha should have recalled the Rhino due to the vast number of complaints the corporation had received regarding the vehicle’s tendency to fall over, even when drivers were driving the vehicle at low speeds on flat land. This time, the jury acknowledged the legitimacy of the plaintiff’s claim, and a verdict was issued against Yamaha in the amount of $3.3 million, which includes $2 million in punitive damages, related to the recklessness exhibited by Yamaha in their decision to keep their dangerous product on the market.

Now let’s turn to another thing that moves: dogs. Dogs are known as man’s best friend, but sometimes man’s best friend doesn’t out to be such a good best friend at all: according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (the CDC), nearly 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, and, of those, roughly 885,000 require medical attention for the injuries emanating from the dog bite. Furthermore, according to www.dogsbite.org, a website dedicated to the collection of information related to dog attacks, at least 60% of all deadly dog attacks are attributed to pit bulls (including pit bull mixes). Now, considering that there are over 160 dog breeds registered with the American Kennel Club, the fact that the vast majority of deadly dog bits are the responsibility of one breed (or mix) does not bode well for that breed. This isn’t to say every Pit Bull on the planet is dangerous – some aren’t dangerous at all. The fact is, though, if a dog kills somebody, the likelihood that the dog was a Pit Bull (or a mix of a Pit Bull) is over 60%.

If you own a Pit Bull anywhere, this should give you pause for two primary reasons: first, people with dogs in their house get bitten more often than those with out dogs in their house and, second, you may very well be responsible for the damage (or injuries) that your dog causes. (Note: you should still consider these facts if you own a different breed of dog, but you should be paying extra special attention to this fact if your dog is, statistically, more likely to cause damage than another breed of dog). In Florida, according to Chapter 767 of Title XLV of the State Code, “the owner of any dog that bites any person … is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.” An owner is liable for the damage or injuries caused by their dog, as stated above, if the injury takes place in a public place (in the street, at a a park, etc.), or while the victim is lawfully in a private residence (if the victim is your neighbor who was invited over for a dinner at which they were attacked). (Note: this means that if a robber breaks into your house to harm you and your dog attacks the robber and injures him, you may very well not be liable for the damage caused by your dog because the victim – the robber – was not in your home “lawfully.”)

These are just things to stay aware of. Dogs can be wonderful pets and marvelous companions but, as we have seen, they also have the ability to seriously injure people – the bodies of their victims and the wallets of their owners.

If you have any questions relating to any of these issues – product liability law or dog bite law – or any other personal injury issues, please reach out to us at the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg for a free consultation by calling 561-266-9191 or emailing us at daronberg@build.simple.biz.

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