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K-9 Officer Entitled to Statutory Immunity After Dog Bites Guest At His Home

In the case of Harris v. Hilderbrand, 2022-Ohio-1555, the Appellate Court held that a K-9 officer was entitled to political subdivision immunity after the officer’s K-9 dog bit one of his guests during a cookout at his home.

Here, the guest argues that the K-9 officer was negligent in allowing his dog to bite her at the officer’s home during a cookout when the officer was off-duty and therefore outside the scope of his employment. The officer raised the affirmative defense of immunity as an employee of a political subdivision under R.C. Chapter 2744. The statute states that an employee of a political subdivision is shielded from liability unless the employee was not acting within the scope of their employment. The Appellate Court agreed with the K-9 officer.

In support of its decision, the Appellate Court reasoned that the circumstances that gave rise to the dog bite did not occur “manifestly” or obviously outside the scope of the officer’s employment because the officer was responsible for caring for the dog at his residence. The Court explained that the bite occurred spontaneously and unprovoked; the officer did not give the dog the bite command. The Court further explained that the officer was not expected to remove the dog from the presence of guests because that could result in harmful implications such as the dog having negative reactions to people in the community.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is like the always-changing Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

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