One-Free-Bite Defense Not Valid in Pennsylvania

Posted on: June 29th, 2012       Attorney Thomas Newell

A 2008 ruling by the PA Superior Court advanced the rights of Pennsylvania dog bite attack victims. Two pit bulls owned by a renter got loose and attacked a young girl and two good Samaritans who tried to rescue her. All three PA dog bite victims filed lawsuits in Allegheny County against the owner of the pit bulls and the landlord. At trial, the dog owner’s attorney claimed that since the dog bite victims could not prove prior vicious propensities, his client was entitled to ‘one-free-bite.’

The Pennsylvania dog bite attorneys representing the victims successfully argued that the 1996 Amendments to the PA Dog Law removed any possible one-free-bite defense. The trial judge ruled that the jury could consider all of the facts of that attack to determine whether the pit bulls had violent propensities. The jury entered damage verdicts against both the tenant and the landlord.

The defense lawyers filed an appeal to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. The Appeals Court agreed with the PA dog bite victims that the one-free-bite defense does not exist anymore in PA. It further stated that in order for a landlord to be held liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog, the victim must prove that the landlord knew of the dog’s presence on the property and its violent propensities prior to the PA dog bite attack. Underwood Ex Rel. Underwood v. Wind, 954 A.2d 1199 (Pa. Super. 2008)