New York City Personal Injury Law Blog

Police Dog Bite Incidents And Filing a Lawsuit

Posted on Jan 13, 2018 in Dog Bites

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are roughly 4.5 million dog bite incidents each year in the United States. Of these, 900,000 become infected.

As of 2017, the population in the US is approximately 325.8 million people, which means 1 out of every 72 people is bitten by a dog. Statistics also reveal that about 1,000 people in the US are bitten by a dog each day – these bites cause injuries that are serious enough to require emergency care treatment.

While many cases involve private dog owners, there are also many cases that involve police dogs. Unfortunately, some cases are extremely serious with people sustaining severe injuries caused by bites inflicted by police dogs. If you have been a victim of a police dog attack, you should find out if you have a viable case to file a personal injury lawsuit against the police officers handling the dog.

Innocent Man Attacked by Police Dog

As a man was pumping gasoline in Gary, Indiana, he was attacked by a police dog who mistook him for a criminal. According to news reports, Antwan Scott who was bitten by a police dog now walks with a limp as a result of the severe injuries that he sustained.

Scott said that when he stopped to pump gasoline at Golo Gas Station on October 12th, 2017, he saw police cars and heard a police officer telling him to stop running and that they were about to let the dogs out on him. That is when he saw the dog which immediately caught hold of one of his legs and would not let him go.

The police officer commanded the dog to let go of Scott but he did not. The dog eventually dragged Scott down to the ground with his teeth digging into the man’s skin. He said that once the dog finally let go of him, the officers came to his aide.

According to Scott, the police officers gave him an excuse, saying that the suspect ran past his car and that the dog made a mistake.

David Novak, Scott’s attorney, accused the Gary Police Department for poor training. He said that such incidents should not be allowed to happen. He also said that police are trained, and being a weapon used by the police, the dog should also be properly trained. He added that police should be able to control their weapon.

A father of five, Scott has not been able to work since the incident occurred. He said that he is not angry with the police, but agreed with his attorney that improved training should be provided for police dogs.

Novak said that he will continue to investigate the case and will file a lawsuit against the Gary Police Department on Scott’s behalf.

Police Dog Attacks

Police officers use numerous tools to apprehend a suspect, including dogs. Generally, police dogs are well trained, but unfortunately, there have been a number of cases where police officers have used their dogs to bite a suspect, resulting in unnecessary harm to the person. K-9 dogs are typically mid-larger breeds, such as German shepherds, Belgian malinois, retrievers and Labradors, and they can seriously injure an individual.

If a police dog bites a suspect, they can potentially cause severe lacerations or even break the suspect’s bones. If you are attacked by a police dog and sustained injuries, it usually indicates that the police officer took excessive force against you. You should seek the help of a personal injury attorney experienced in police brutality or police dog bite cases to investigate whether the use of a dog by the police officer was appropriate or if it was the cause of unnecessary injuries.

The angry dog scene in White Chicks was pretty funny but it is not so funny if this happens to you in real life. Though Kevin Copeland was not welcome in that home!

Graffiti Artists Attacked by Police Dog Get $175,000 Settlement

Two men in South Florida were severely bitten by a police dog filed a civil rights lawsuit against three deputies of the Broward Sheriff’s Office and agreed to a settlement of $175,000.

Well-known graffiti artists, in the graffiti community, Humberto Pellegrino, aged 39, and Pedro Claveria, aged 38, were spraying gondolas and freight trains when deputies showed up on January 17th, 2014. The men said that despite surrendering immediately, the deputies provoked the dog to attack them. According to their statement, one of the deputies shouted, “Eat, boy, eat!”

The two property vandalizers said that they were not trying to escape, but the deputies used excessive, unnecessary force.

The Browrd Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the two plaintiffs would split the $175,000 settlement against deputies Davis “Chris” Acevedo, Gerald “Jerry” Wengert and Leonard Smith. In her court order, US District Judge Beth Bloom wrote that Pellegrino and Claveria’s medical costs must be paid out of the proceeds of the settlement.

Pallegrino and Claveria said that the dog bite incident took place at a loading dock in Pompano Beach. Two friends who were present when the incident took place were uninjured. According to the two street artists, when the deputies showed up, they immediately put their hands up and surrendered.

Claveria said that he lay on his stomach, hands open, and informed the deputies that all four men were not armed but Deputy Acevedo still sicced the dog on him.

According to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Miami, all of the defendants made noises, including grunting, to antagonize the police dog into attacking Claveria. In an attack that he estimated to have lasted about 2 minutes, the dog bit him in the upper arm, shoulder, and below his elbow. According to Claveria, the deputies told the dog to “get” and “grab “him.

Pellegrino said that he too was lying flat on the ground on his stomach and Deputy Wengert walked over to him and said that the dog was ready to eat again and that he was still hungry. The dog bit him on both legs for about 3 minutes, while deputy Wengert commanded the dog to “eat”.

According to the lawsuit, the two main offenders were Deputy Acevedo, the dog’s handler, and Deputy Wengert. While Deputy Smith did not say or do anything to encourage the dog to attack the two men, he did not make any effort to stop the attack.

According to reports, Deputy Wengert has been named in several claims of police brutality and using excessive force. There are two federal civil cases pending against him, including a wrongful death case. Additionally, prosecutors from the State Attorney’s Office still have an open criminal investigation pending that pertains to the actions of Deputy Wengert in the case involving Pellegrino and Claveria.

Graffiti degrades neighborhoods but this was uncalled for.

Suing for Injuries Caused by a Police Dog

Dogs are used by the police and military for patrol and making arrests. Police and military personnel are given special protection under state statutes in the event their dogs injure people under certain special circumstances. That said, there aren’t offered protection for violation of civil rights, unreasonable force or injuries that are caused by police dogs when not on duty or when not engaged in law enforcement activities. Generally, law enforcement officers are forbidden from using excessive force when they are making arrests.

Courts have held that dogs can be used by police officers to bite and hold a person that is suspected of committing a crime, but this should be done only when it is reasonable to do so.

If a police dog bites a person other than the suspect, its owners, i.e. the police, are subject to civil liability lawsuits. In a number of states, the dog bite statutes governing private citizens, which typically do not involve police dogs, would become applicable.

Where to Sue for Police Dog Bite Injuries – Federal or State Court?

Claims for injuries that are inflicted by police dogs are typically brought under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. As mentioned, police are generally forbidden from using unreasonable or excessive force when they make an arrest. If they do, they may need to pay compensation to the victim.

In some cases, the offending police officer may be punished – the punishment includes requiring them to pay punitive damages to the victim. Additionally, it is possible for the federal law to give victims a few advantages, including a longer statute of limitations to file their lawsuit and an award of attorney fees and costs.

Lawsuit Against K-9 Officer After Dog Bites the Wrong Man

A civil rights lawsuit was filed against a Police K-9 personnel – Tim Browne who is deputed at Colorado Springs by Willie Watlington. The lawsuit alleged that Watlington was exiting Peak Tavern in December 2015 when police officers entered the establishment in search of a suspect that court papers described as a white male in his 50s or 60s.

According to the lawsuit, 24-year-old African American Watlington was walking back to his apartment when Officer Browne ordered Blitz, his K-9 dog, to bite him. The plaintiff said that he saw the dog running toward him and immediately dropped to the ground, curling up into a ball to protect himself.

The K-9 dog reportedly bit Watlington on his leg multiple times. The victim was transported to Pentrose St. Francis Hospital for treatment for one large gaping wound and several puncture wounds. Watlington was not charged for any crime, nor was he arrested, at the time of the incident.

Violation of the Constitutional Rights

There are many police dog bite cases that violate constitutional rights against excessive force, or where injuries could have been easily prevented. Some examples of such cases include:

  • The dog ignored the commands of the handler to stop biting could not be stopped
  • The officer did not call off the dog when needed, or failed to call it off.
  • After escaping its handler, the dog attacked an innocent person.
  • The dog was deployed against a suspect who did not pose any threat.
  • The officer sicced the dog on an innocent person.
  • The dog was ordered to bite in a punitive manner.

Factors that May Decide a Police Dog Bite Injury Case

When dogs are used as an extension of police power, the governing factor is excessive force. This force is measured by the actual attack and the injury caused by the attack against the government interest in effecting a narcotics search or an arrest. Other factors that have an effect on the outcome, may include, but are not limited to:

  • What was the nature of the crime committed by the suspect? Felony or misdemeanor?
  • Was the suspect armed and/or a danger to the general public or the police?
  • Was the suspect fleeing or hiding?
  • Did the suspect fight the dog or surrender?
  • Did the dog bite the suspect once or multiple times?
  • Did the officer have complete control of the dog?
  • Could less violent methods have been used by the police officer/officers to arrest the suspect?

Filing a Police Dog Bite Claim

Once you have determined that you have a viable case, here is how to proceed with filing a police dog bite lawsuit:

  • There are a number of laws enacted for filing personal injury claims against the government or government agencies. The procedures vary from state to state, but there is a standard form you can file to inform the government of the injury you sustained. This procedure is known as government tort claim.
  • The next step is to wait for their response. You will most probably receive this response after a set period of time after your case is evaluated. If you do not receive a response or they reject your claim, you should proceed with filing a police dog bite lawsuit.
  • It is vital to hire a dog bite injury lawyer who has experience in handling cases that involve police dog bite incidents. Your attorney should be able to build a solid claim and have the knowledge and skill to effectively counter the arguments of the government agency that you are filing the lawsuit against.

Keep in mind that filing a lawsuit for dog bite injury, especially against the police, can be a long and arduous process. This is why it is crucial to have a sagacious and motivated dog bite lawyer represent you and there is no firm better for you in this regard than RMFW Law in The Big Apple.

Get Legal Assistance for Police Dog Bite Cases

If you or a loved one has been injured by a police dog, you should make sure to immediately contact a personal injury lawyer experienced in police dog bite cases. You may consult a profound attorney at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff, of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280. Our legal professionals can help in assessing your case and assert your rights so you can obtain fair compensation for your injuries by taking appropriate legal action.

We only win if you win. RMFW Law knows how to win these types of courses and we know the tactics of the opposition. We know which direction to take your case. Call us today!

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