In Bowman v. Davidson, a Texas appellate court considered a case in which a guest at a couple’s home was bitten in the face by their dog. She suffered severe injuries and sued the couple. She claimed that since they had actual or constructive knowledge about their dog’s abnormally dangerous tendencies, they were strictly liable for her injuries, or alternatively they were negligent in failing to use reasonable care to stop the dog from hurting her. The jury found for the couple on both of these theories.
The plaintiff appealed, arguing that she was entitled to a positive jury verdict on strict liability as a matter of law, and in the alternative that the jury’s finding went against the weight and preponderance of evidence. The appellate court explained that the owner of a vicious animal may be held strictly liable for injuries in Texas. However, the owner of a non-vicious animal may be liable if he negligently handles the animal.
In order for strict liability to apply, the plaintiff will need to show: (1) the defendant owned or possessed the animal, (2) the animal had dangerous tendencies that were abnormal for the type of animal it is, (3) the defendant knew or should have known of these tendencies, and (4) the tendencies caused the plaintiff’s injuries.