Teen Killed After Trespassing in Backyard
This is one of those stories that are going to split people down the middle and divide them into two camps. A 16-year-old Dallas teen was killed by three dogs after he went in their backyard. The dogs attacked the boy and the police were alerted to the situation. One of the dogs was shot while the officers attempted to rescue the boy. But by then it was too late.
The dog’s owner, Guillermo Lorenzo, has since been relieved of the two surviving dogs who are now at a nearby animal shelter. Lorenzo maintains that the boy had no business on his property and his dogs were simply doing what they were supposed to do. It remains unclear what the boy was doing in Lorenzo’s backyard.
Obviously, the situation is tragic. Pit bulls have a lot of rabid humans who ferociously defend their breed of choice against bad press and frightened mothers. Nonetheless, the loss of this boy’s life is tragic.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Lorenzo
There is no indication that the family is seeking to file a wrongful death action against Lorenzo and his dogs. Indeed, it would be an uphill battle if they tried. Texas, unlike many other states, is a negligence state when it comes to dog bites. That means that an injured party may only file a lawsuit against the dog’s owner if the dog has already bitten someone. In some cases, Texas will apply a “strict liability” rule if the dog is known to be vicious or dangerous. If a dog bites one person, it is classified as dangerous.
Even if Lorenzo’s dog had already bitten someone, the boy was not an invitee on the property. He was a trespasser. Trespassing is a solid defense to a dog bite liability lawsuit. In fact, it’s an unimpeachable defense. An injured party cannot collect damages in Texas if they are illegally accessing another’s property. This is not the case in other states.
Other states limit recovery for trespassers but they do not eradicate it completely. For instance, a trespasser may be able to recover damages for medical expenses, but they would not be entitled to collect for pain and suffering or other “noneconomic” damages.
Additionally, a dog owner facing civil liability can argue that they didn’t know that the dog had a propensity to be dangerous. It then becomes the plaintiff’s burden to show that they either did know or should have known.
Does the Dog Owner Have a Property Tort Against the Teen?
Sad as this may be to say, the dog’s owner has a better case against the teen’s family (who are liable for any property damage the teen causes). In this case, because the teen was illegally on someone else’s property, got mauled to death, and the dog’s owner lost at least one of his dogs, he may have a cause of action to sue the family. Will he? We hope not. They appear to have suffered enough.
Talk to a Houston Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you’ve been bitten by a vicious dog and are not a trespasser, you can recover damages for your injuries. The Houston dog bite attorneys at Livingston & Flowers, P.L.L.C. can help you file your claim and collect the money you’re owed. Talk to us today.