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Florida First DCA rules that trial court erred in setting aside defense verdict in case involving injuries allegedly caused by neighbor’s dog, finds conflicting evidence as to whether dog caused the injury

On September 22, 2021, in Fannin v. Hunter, No. 1D19-4293, the Florida First DCA reversed a trial court order which had granted the plaintiff’s motion for a directed verdict and a new trial to determine damages in a personal injury case. The plaintiff was allegedly injured when he was knocked to the ground by the defendant’s dog. He sought damages under Fla. Stat. § 767.01 (2017), which imposes strict statutory liability “for any damage done by their dogs to a person,” and has been interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court to require only that the dog acted in “an affirmative or aggressive” manner. See Jones v. Utica Mut. Ins. Co., 463 So. 2d 1153, 1157 (Fla. 1985). The trial court order was entered after the jury returned a no-liability verdict in favor of the defendant. The First DCA noted that there was conflicting evidence at trial not only as to whether the defendant’s dog caused the fall but also as to whether the plaintiff suffered the injuries he claimed.Viewing the evidence in its entirety, the Court concluded that a reasonable jury could conclude that the defendant’s dog was not the cause of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries.