Victims of dog attacks were given greater rights by the Ohio Supreme Court in the January 2010 Beckett v. Warren decision, which opens the door to recovery of non-economic and punitive damages if the dog's vicious propensities were known to the owner and no reasonable precautions were taken to protect others. Damages previously allowed under Ohio's dog-bite statute - for reimbursement of medical expenses only - can still be claimed.
Prior to the Ohio Supreme Court's decision, victims of dog attacks could seek relief only under Ohio dog-bite statute, R.C. 955.28. The statute imposed strict liability on the owner of a dog "for any injury...that is caused by the dog" unless the injured person was trespassing or committing a criminal offense.
For strict liability under the statute to attach, the victim must show (1) ownership of the dog; (2) whether the dog's actions were the proximate cause of the injury; and (3) damages. Prior to Beckett, non-economic and punitive damages were not compensable.
Beckett, however, concluded that "there are two bases for recovery in Ohio for injuries sustained as a result of a dog bite: common law and statutory." The Court continued, "in a common law action...a plaintiff must how that (1) the defendant owned or harbored the dog; (2) the dog was vicious; (3) the defendant knew of the dog's viciousness; and (4) the dog was kept in a negligent manner after the keeper knew of its viciousness."
As a result of the Beckett ruling, a dog's propensity towards violence and its viciousness, as well as how the dog was maintained are now relevant issues for a plaintiff seeking non-economic and punitive damages.
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