Click here to see part 1 of Daniel J. O’Brien’s interview about his PA and NJ Dog Bite Book.
Q: What have you done in handling these serious dog bite cases that sets you apart from the way others might handle these cases?
A: It all started basically with one case. I was representing a child who was very seriously injured in a dog attack in Pennsylvania. I sued the dog owner. What kept gnawing at me through the case was, what the heck was this person owning the dog that they owned? It was a very dangerous, very large and powerful breed of dog.
The owner’s home and lifestyle simply were not appropriate for this person to have this dog in their house. Basically, by having this dog in house, they had a ticking time bomb in their house. I kept thinking, it wasn’t a question of “if this dog is going to attack somebody,” it was just “when and who the victim was going to be?”
What I did was I got the permission of the child’s mother to investigate possible theories of liability against the company that bred the dog and the company that supplied the dog to her.
What I found was that there is a very well established standard of care in the industry for these professions. In this particular case that I was handling, the breeder and supplier or seller of the dog had breached those standards of care very badly.
Through the assistance of some very highly qualified expert witnesses, i.e., breeding experts, training experts and animal behaviorists, I was able to establish that the negligence of these parties that bred and sold the dog actually caused or contributed to this very tragic attack of the young child.
Q: Is this how you handle all your serious dog bite cases, by hiring experts and doing the things you just described?
A: No, that can’t be done in every case. Pursuing the case in that fashion is a very expensive and time consuming endeavor. It is only economically practical in cases involving very serious injury – disfigurements, nerve damage, muscle damage and things like that.
Also the initial investigation that we do has to establish that there is a good faith factual basis to pursue the claim. We have to know or have a real strong suspicion that these parties other than the dog owner did something negligent. We don’t just pursue the cases against these parties for the sake of doing it. It’s the relatively rare case that we actually pursue these theories, but there are a certain percentage of cases, in my experience, where these theories of liability can and absolutely should be pursued.
Q: Did you obtain a favorable result in the case?
A: Yes. The details of the recovery are confidential, but I can say it was a very favorable result. It was many many times what we would have been able to obtain for this child had we just stopped the investigation and stopped the case with the dog owner.
Q: What is the most interesting thing that you have learned while handling serious dog attack cases in PA and NJ?
A: I think probably the most interesting thing I learned is learning exactly what make dogs tick and what makes them act the way they act. What I have found is that certain breeds of pure bred dogs have certain innate characteristics or certain traits. Negligent breeding practices can certainly increase or amplify potentially negative or dangerous traits in those breeds.
I have also found that there are certain dogs that need a certain type of home environment in order to be well behaved and good family pets. If certain breeds of dogs are put in the wrong environment, they will attack people without provocation.
I have also learned that training practices and handling of dogs can greatly increase the likelihood of unprovoked dog attacks. I’ve learned this not from talking to dog owners, but actually talking to very highly qualified dog handlers, dog trainers and dog breeders, again people who practice in the field of animal behaviorist science.
Q: Why is the book limited to Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
A: I only practice law in those 2 states. I am licensed to practice in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I thought it was appropriate to just limit the book to those 2 states. I have certainly handled other cases out of state, not dog bite cases, but I’ve been specially admitted in several other states to handle other cases.
I suppose in the right circumstances I would certainly be willing to partner with an attorney from another state to handle a serious case out of those 2 states.
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Related PA dog bite case result: Dog attack victim receives $1,000,000 in settlement