Morgantown, WV asked in Personal Injury and Animal / Dog Law for West Virginia

Q: What is res ipsa loquitur and how would it relate to a personal injury dog bite case?

1 Lawyer Answer

A: "Res ipsa loquitur" is a Latin phrase that means "the thing speaks for itself," in other words, an act or injury that does not occur without negligence on some party's fault. An example would be a doctor's cutting off the wrong leg in an operation. Without negligence, the wrong leg is never cut off.

With regard to dog bites cases in West Virginia, a similar doctrine may apply. If the dog is "running at large," in other words, not under its owner/keeper's control or confined, the owner is legally liable and responsible for any damage done by the dog, without the necessity of showing that the owner or keeper was negligent. In many states, someone injured by a dog must prove that the owner or keeper of the dog did something wrong, or knew or should have known that the dog was vicious or was likely to bite someone. This is sometimes referred to as the "one free bite rule," the "one bite rule," or the "first bite rule." West Virginia has no such rule; dog owners are strictly liable if their dog is "running at large" and injures someone.

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