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Arizona High Court Throws Out Verdict in Dog Bite Case

by / Monday, 10 September 2018 / Published in Dog Bite, Personal Injury, Uncategorized

Arizona’s high court has thrown out a $650,000 verdict that was awarded to a former Pima County resident who was bitten and permanently disfigured by a Sheriff’s Department dog.

Arizona High Court Throws Out Verdict in Dog Bite Case

In the high court ruling, the justices said there was no legal basis for the claim of negligence brought by survivors of Brian McDonald. A jury had awarded his family $650,000 as part of a negligence claim to recover damages for dog bite injuries McDonald had sustained when a police officer purposefully released a police canine against him.

The Incident

Brian McDonald was driving in Tucson late one night in 2013 when he swerved into the lane next to him, nearly crashing into a police car driven by Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Dixon. Dixon then pursued McDonald.  McDonald did not stop. Dixon then called for assistance. Eventually, McDonald pulled over but did not respond when asked to show his hands.

Deputy Joseph Klein and his police dog, Barry who was trained “bite and hold,” arrived at the scene.  Klein made it clear to McDonald that he would “send his dog” unless McDonald responded. McDonald led another chase but eventually put his hands on the car. Allegedly, Klein released Barry once McDonald put his hands on the roof of his car. McDonald sustained serious injuries and permanent disfigurement after Barry bit his leg for 25 to 38 seconds.

Law enforcement later learned that McDonald had type 1 diabetes, and at the time of this incident, he was experiencing “a severe hypoglycemic event,” which might have explained his lack of ability to respond to police commands. There were no criminal charges placed against McDonald.

McDonald then sued Klein and the other Pima County Sheriffs, alleging that Klein “negligently released” Barry and that using the police dog “constituted a negligent, unjustified, and excessive use of force.”

New Ruling

 Justice Ann Scott Timmer, writing for the unanimous court, said the problem with the case is that the lawyers for McDonald’s survivors are arguing Klein was negligent in intentionally releasing the dog. One cannot be negligent for an intentional act.

“It follows that if a defendant acts with the intent to cause a harmful or offensive touching (battery), that same act cannot constitute negligence,” Timmer wrote.

McDonald’s survivors might not have any legal remedy following this ruling.