Suppose you are spending a lazy afternoon lounging around in the backyard of a new acquaintance. You see your friend has a dog, which is tied out a few yards away, looking oh-so-cute snoozing in the sun. As soon as you spot Spot, you are just itching to go over and scratch the little guy behind the ears. You love dogs. But your friend says to stay away — the dog does not like strangers. Still, when your friend goes inside to replenish the refreshments, you just cannot resist. Next thing you know, the little guy is sinking his not-so-little teeth into your arm.
Now, whose fault is that?
The English language offers all sorts of common-sense phrases to answer that question:
I told you so.
It serves you right!
What were you thinking?
Various unprintable epithets.
In the language of law, we have a phrase for it, too: Assumption of Risk.
What is Assumption of Risk?
The legal argument of Assumption of Risk is used by defendants in many kinds of personal injury lawsuits, but one of the best illustrations is, in fact, a well-known dog bite case. In the Georgia case Durham v Mason, a boy was bitten by a dog belonging to his friend when he approached the dog to pet him. The owners said they had no previous reason to believe their dog was vicious (a requirement in order to hold them liable for negligence) — but the bitten boy testified that the dog had often growled at him and that he was somewhat afraid of the dog.
Because of that testimony, the court held that the boy had reason to believe the dog might be dangerous, and that by approaching the dog anyway he had voluntarily taken upon himself (assumed) the risk of being bitten. The owners of the dog, therefore, were not held liable for the injury.
Posted in Dog Bites
Tagged assumption of risk, breach of warranty, GA personal injury lawyer, premises liability