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Wisconsin Court of Appeals Orders New Trial For Dog Bite Victim

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals just reversed a judgment in favor of a local woman who was injured when she attempted to protect her chocolate lab “Moosie” from the neighbor’s pitbull “Princess”.

The dog owner had been in her backyard with Moosie when Princess gained access into the backyard and then attacked Mossie and bit her through. The victim attempted multiple times to pry Princess off of Moosie until eventually Princess bit her right arm and pulled her to the ground where she injured her knee on the concrete. After this altercation, Princess finally ran off. The victim would need stitches for the bite along with treatment for her knee injury. It was also determined by a psychologist that she had also suffered from PTSD, which is commonly diagnosed in dog-bite cases.

The victim then sued her neighbors under Wis. Stat 174.02 the statute that imposes strict liability on dog owners for any damage their dog causes to another domestic animal, person, or property. When dog bite cases go to trial it is then up to a jury to decide whether or not the victim was contributorily negligent. Meaning that the victims negligent actions where the cause of the injuries in question.

During trial the court announced that it was going to include the “emergency doctrine” along with the standard jury instruction. This specific instruction states that the jury can waive a person’s contributory negligence if they are acting on an emergency situation. Although defense counsel objected to this instruction it was included and the jury then ruled in favor of The victim finding that she was responding to an emergency situation.

Upon appeal the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court was mistaken in giving the jury instruction on the “emergency doctrine” and ruled that had this erroneous jury instruction been excluded the jury would have ruled differently.