Court Affirms Requisite Knowledge of Dog's Propensity to Hold Owner Liable
Efren Cornejo was injured during an encounter with a dog named "Libei," owned by Cory Allen. Cornejo asserted that he suffered injuries while trying to escape the aggressively charging Libei. A day prior to the charging incident, Libei had attacked and bitten Cornejo.
The central question before the Court of Appeals was whether Allen, as the dog's owner, could be held liable for Cornejo's injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment to Allen on Cornejo’s claims of strict liability and negligence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision as to strict liability. confirming that under Georgia law, strict liability is not imposed upon dog owners for injuries inflicted by their dogs. Essentially, this means that merely owning a dog does not automatically make the owner liable for any harm the dog causes.
However, on the issue of negligence, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision. The appellate court highlighted a crucial factor in their reversal - whether Allen was aware of Libei's propensity for aggressive behavior.
Under Georgia law, a person who owns or keeps a dangerous or vicious animal may be held liable if the animal causes injury to another person. To establish this liability, it is essential to prove that the owner knew of the animal's dangerous propensity. Although Allen argued that the biting incident and the charging incident were so dissimilar that a jury could not find that he had the requisite knowledge to hold him liable for the injuries sustained by Cornejo, the court disagreed and held that a jury could reasonably infer Allen's knowledge based on the earlier biting incident and Cornejo's description of the charging incident as an "attack." Cornejo v. Allen, A23A0052 (Ga.Ct.App. May 5, 2023)