Illinois Appellate Court Considers Two Animal Control Act Cases

Most lawsuits in Illinois relating to injuries resulting from an animal attack are filed on the basis of the Illinois Animal Control Act (“ACA”). The ACA contains a strict liability standard for dog owners who are held liable for injuries inflicted by the dog on another person, even in cases where they claim the dog has never bitten before and even when there was no knowledge that the dog presented a danger to others.

To prove an ACA case, a person who is injured by a dog (or any other animal) must show that (1) the defendant was the owner or custodian of the dog, (2) the dog caused an injury, (3) the dog was unprovoked by the injured person, and (4) the injured person was legally permitted to be in the location where the bite occurred.

The Fifth District Appellate Court recently decided two ACA cases in favor of plaintiffs. In one case, the court allowed a jury verdict to stand. That verdict awarded $140,000 to an Illinois woman whose brother’s dog bit her. The trial court had denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial or judgment notwithstanding the verdict and the defendants appealed the denial.

Based on the ACA, the lawsuit was brought by a woman in 2010 against her brother and sister-in-law. The woman was injured in 2008, when she saw her brother’s lab-husky mix get hit by a truck. The dog looked like it was going to walk back into the street. The woman restrained him by enfolding him in her arms. When she tried to let go, the dog ripped up her one thumb and put puncture marks on the other thumb. He then died.

The woman needed to get four surgeries on her right thumb. This made it difficult to care for her newborn baby, among other harms. Her trial against her brother and his wife took three days. The jury awarded her $5000 for the disfigurement to her thumbs, $45,000 for the loss of normal life, $50,000 for her pain and suffering, and $40,000 for her medical expenses.

In appealing the verdict, the woman’s brother and his wife argued that when the woman put her arms around the dog, she was transformed into a custodian of the dog and was therefore an owner of the dog who wasn’t able to recover for her injuries. The woman’s brother and his wife also argued that the jury was incorrectly instructed on the question of “provocation”. In their view the woman provoked the dog by restraining it. However, the appellate panel agreed with the woman that the jury was fully informed of the applicable legal principles and upheld the verdict.

In the other case, the appellate court affirmed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff who was injured when her son’s dog unexpectedly ran out in front of her. The dog’s leash got caught and acted as a “trip wire”. She claimed that the leash caused her to trip and fall and sustain a fractured wrist. A dissenting judge noted that she had control of the dog and wrote that the question of cause should have been determined by a jury.

If you were hurt or a loved one was killed by a dog bite or animal attack, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your harm or loss. Give the hardworking attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. a call at (312) 924-7575 to discuss your rights. Our caring Chicago personal injury lawyers are available 24 hours per day, seven days of the week to help you file your case. For a free consultation with a capable advocate, please contact Abels & Annes, P.C. through the law firm’s website.

Note: Abels & Annes, P.C. did not represent the plaintiffs in the above mentioned cases, although we do work on dog bites cases regularly. In 2012, we resolved a dog attack case for $250,000.

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