The Atlanta Injury News Blog

Police Dog Bites Man, Who's Liable?

A Fayetteville Walmart employee is recovering after being attacked by a police dog outside of the store, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

On Thursday, 52-year-old Mang Dieke was on his coffee break outside of a Fayetteville Walmart when he was attacked by a Belgian Malinois police dog. Dieke suffered multiple injuries in the attack. Should he sue the county?

At around 2 a.m. on Thursday, Dieke was taking his coffee break outside of the store, when he saw the door of a Fayetteville County Sheriff's K-9 Officer's SUV pop open in the parking lot. A Belgian Malinois hopped out of the SUV and made a beeline for him, Dieke says.

The dog immediately attacked Dieke, biting down on the man's arm. He can be seen struggling with the dog in a store surveillance video. Since the dog wouldn't let go of his arm, Dieke dragged it into the store.

The dog's handler, who had been using the store's restroom, reportedly rushed out when he heard the commotion and pulled the dog off of Dieke. Dieke suffered deep bites to his arm, stomach, chest, and groin. So who's to blame for the attack?

Under Georgia law, an owner of a dangerous animal can be held liable for injuries caused by the animal if the owner allowed the animal to roam free or didn't take affirmative steps to manage the animal's behavior. Dieke would have to show that the dog's handler was negligent in leaving the dog unattended in a public place. However, the county would likely argue that the dog was well-trained and secured in the SUV. In addition, there may be an issue of immunity for the police department that Dieke will have to overcome.

Alternatively, Dieke may wish to bring a product liability suit against the maker of the SUV's door locking system. The SUV had a remote locking system that allowed the door to be opened remotely. The manufacturer of the lock told the Sheriff's Office that the remote was subject to radio frequency interference, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

The Fayetteville County Sheriff's Office now plans to upgrade the locks to avoid the radio interference problem. The Sheriff's Office was puzzled by the attack on Mang Dieke. "The dog obviously thought the victim was a threat of some sort. I don't know why," Sheriff's Maj. Bryan Woodie said.

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