Last Friday, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Texas' “first free bite” rule (allowing a dog owner to escape most legal liability if a previously gentle dog attacks) does not free owners of the responsibility of stopping an attack once it occurs.
The so-called first-free-bite rule penalizes an owner who knows their pet is dangerous, but limits legal liability for those who reasonably believe their dog poses no risk to others.
In its ruling, the court stated that a pet owner “owes a duty to stop the dog from attacking a person after the attack has begun.” Knowledge of a dog's nature, whether violent or not, plays no role on this basic duty.
In reversing two lower courts, the court ruled that Genevia Bushnell, who received wounds on her legs, arms, and back in 2001 that took more than two years to heal, could sue Janet Mott, the owner of the three dogs that attacked her.
According to Bushnell, Mott watched the attack from several feet away but did nothing to help and even scolded Bushnell's son for trying to calm the dogs so he could rescue his mother.