Does Your Dog Bite?

The Vermont Supreme Court has remanded a case back to the lower court for a jury to determine if the defendants knew or should have known that their dog was a probable source of danger.

The plaintiffs, Amber Bradley, Billy Noyes, and their son Tyler Noyes, are suing Amber’s parents (Tyler’s grandparents) after their recently acquired dog, Bobo, attacked Tyler. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim John and Sharon Bradley negligently allowed the dog to attack the boy.

According to the lawsuit, the dog had been around the owners’ other grandchildren on numerous occasions without incident, but this was the first time Tyler had met the dog. With Bobo chained to a garage, Tyler approached him from behind to stand near his grandfather, John. When Tyler went to touch Bobo, the dog grabbed him, threw him in the air and then onto the ground, attacking him.

The lower court, following Vermont case law precedent, concluded defendants did not have reason to know Bobo was a probable source of danger despite the previous owner noting the dog had once growled at his son and that he “had always had off feelings about the dog.” On appeal, the Vermont Supreme Court agreed with plaintiffs, ruling that “a genuine dispute of facts exists as to whether defendants ‘had some reason to know the animal was a probable source of danger,’” sending the case back to the lower court for a jury to determine if defendants had reason to know the dog was probably dangerous.


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