For Whom the Torts Toll: Disney is Sued After Hemmingway Bites Girl

An interesting case was filed against Disneyland in California over a dog bite. Lena Dickerson was 2-years-old when she was encouraged to pet a German shepherd-Labrador retriever mix named Hemmingway at the Disneyland petting zoo in October of 2006. She was severely bitten on the face and left with scarring.

The family later found out that a Disney employee had adopted the 6-year-old dog from the Orange County Animal Shelter and brought it to the theme park two weeks before the attack. The dog was placed on a box in the Big Thunder petting zoo and kids were encouraged to pet the dog while an employee held its leash.

What makes this case particularly interesting is the record. Under the “one free bite rule” owners are subject to strict liability if they know of their dog’s vicious propensities. In this case, the shelter had notations in the record that Hemmingway was “not very social” and had a history of aggression. Sounds just perfect for a petting zoo. Even if strict liability does not apply, there is an obvious basis for negligence in either ignoring such warnings or failing to inquire about them.

The family is seeking punitive damages.

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3 thoughts on “For Whom the Torts Toll: Disney is Sued After Hemmingway Bites Girl”

  1. Mespo:

    The dog cases are fascinating due to the jury reactions. If there is any evidence of vicious propensity (even short of a bite), the accident takes on a much darker light for the jury — even though an incident of snapping or chasing is common. It is particularly interesting to see how the breeds play into the equation. If if the court keeps out arguments on pit bulls related to their breed, they have such a poor reputation in the media that they increase the likelihood of negative verdict.


  2. Ah, make that “Goofy” and not his more intellectual twin brother “Goog(le)y.” Note to self: Learn to type.

  3. I find juries more than anxious to award damages for animal bite cases. These are completely preventable injuries if the owner exercises a modicrum of control and common sense, and the victims are typically young children as here. I wish the parents fair winds and smooth sailing on this one. Googy in the apt icon, indeed. Maybe even Dopey! Is there a dwarf named Stupidy?

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