In a recent opinion, a state appellate court determined that the defendant city may be held liable for the wrongful death of a man who was killed after being attacked by several privately owned dogs. The case required the court to discuss the public duty doctrine and apply it to the facts presented. Ultimately, the court determined that the city was not entitled to immunity because a special relationship arose between the plaintiff and the city, giving rise to an obligation to the plaintiff and her husband.
The plaintiff was concerned about several neighborhood dogs that she perceived as dangerous. She called 911 on at least one occasion, and she was transferred to the city’s dog warden. The plaintiff expressed her concerns, and the dog warden told the plaintiff that “the county would take care of it.”
On another occasion, the dog warden went to the dogs’ owner’s home and was approached by one of the dogs as she pulled into the driveway. The dog jumped onto the car, preventing the dog warden from getting out of the vehicle. The dog warden later issued the owner a citation for failing to keep the dog restrained.