One Free (Presidential) Bite Rule: Bush’s Dog Barney Bites Reporter

images1The White House was the scene of a torts controversy this week after Presidential Dog Barney bite a reporter. It is a classic question of the common law “one free bite rule.” The video is below.

The Scottish terrier bit Reuters reporter Jonathan Decker in a dream of any personal injury lawyer: a well photographed, unprovoked attack. The greatest danger to Decker was being crushed by the hundreds of lawyers on nearby K St, rushing to give him their business cards. (I am in Kentucky for a speech and feel helpless in missing the opportunity).

Barney appears to have finally succumbed to the hostility toward the media that has manifested itself during this campaign at the White House. This is clearly a case of a pet picking up an owner’s feelings.

Under the common law, the expression “one free bite” is a bit of a misnomer. An owner is strictly liable if he has knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities — not necessarily by a previous biting alone. This could be an ideal subject for congressional oversight to determine if President Bush has brought vicious animals into the White House complex to attack reporters as some type of Roman games or sport as he watches from the Oval Office. I hear that someone saw Bush give the thumbs down signal seconds before Barney was released on the reporter.

Barney is originally from New Jersey and was born on September 30, 2000.

Previous presidents have had both a hippo and a gator as pets — animals that would be classified as wild under the common law and subject to strict liability.

For the video, click here.

For the full story, click here and here

24 thoughts on “One Free (Presidential) Bite Rule: Bush’s Dog Barney Bites Reporter”

  1. I think it’s okay to sue. But there are some situations where the party suing is just being ridiculous.

    I think I’ve gone off base from what I was orginally saying. I’m saying that I am tired of frivalous lawsuits. I think you know what those are. They do exist!

    Not every case is 100% reasonable.

  2. mespo727272 1, November 7, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    Patty C:

    I would suggest a pit bull sans lipstick, and call her either “Victory,” or “Donum,” the Latin word for gift

    I thought about a pit bull, too. They can be great family dogs, despite the negative press.

    Personally, I adore Bull Terriers and Bull Dogs – English and French.

    I am familiar with many breeds and could go on and on.

    I own a Border Collie, a Wiemariner, a Vizsla, two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, a German Short-haired Pointer/lab mix,and a Basset Hound.

    But thinking about where they are going to be housed, initially, and how busy everyone will be, that family needs a family dog with a ‘mellow’ temperament and ‘someone’ to exercise it regularly.
    No doubt the kids would enjoy taking it swimming with them or to the beach – also a consideration.

  3. Mespo,

    A few years ago I was blessed enough to get a taste of that divine drink. My only response was mmmmmmmm.

  4. Sally:

    “Sue happy” is in the eye of the beholder. 85% of all civil cases are brought by businesses against other businesses or consumers. Are they “sue happy” too? Or maybe you just think suing somebody is wrong ethically or morally?

  5. I think that people are just sue happy these days, that’s all.

    Did you see the story on 60 mintues with the man who pretended to be a FBI agent and “arrested” several drug dealers in the community? Then he was found out to be a fraud. And those that he arrested (these people wrote and signed comfessions) had their charges dropped against them and are now suing their city for 10 million dollars?

    The guy who pretended to be a cop was wrong to do so. If he wanted to help fight crime, then he should have become a real cop.

    But explain to me how these drug dealers are entitled to $10 million dollars? Yes they weren’t arrested by a real cop and proper procedure may not have been followed (I don’t know how they were interrogated) but they were still breaking the law and they admitted it to actual law enforcement officers. And they wrote and signed confessions.

    The whole situation is crazy, but both parties involved still broke the law.

    But that’s just my take on it

  6. JT:

    If you are in Kentucky, grab a bottle of Rev. Elijah Craig’s Kentucky Small Batch Bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery. The Baptist Reverend was the “Father of Bourbon,” and that’s a religion I like.

  7. If you think that I’m Seamus or Bob, then fine. It’s seems that you’re the only one who feels that way, so I really am not too concerned.

    I think no such thing.

    BARTLEBEE and Cromagnum recreations are the two possibilities
    I often see.

  8. I seem to remember that Barney bit someone a month or two ago inside the White House, if true, and this is the second bite….

  9. Patty C:

    I would suggest a pit bull sans lipstick, and call her either “Victory,” or “Donum,” the Latin word for gift.

  10. Sally:

    The McDonald’s case is propaganda. If you want the truth see

    On the other hand filing a lawsuit without basis just to get money is fraud and no court I know countenances fraud. Believe it or not Judges are not fools and they are pretty good at separating the innocently injured from the fakers. Simply getting a large verdict from an at fault party is likewise no proof of frivolousness lest Pennzoil should give back it’s 10 billion dollar award against Texaco. You need to talk to more lawyers about how the system works instead of drinking the John Stossel Kool-Ade.

    On your last point, the law doesn’t limit recovery based on the magnitude of injury. Big injuries get big awards and little injuries get small awards. Juries decide, and why should we give up that freedom in the name of expediency or just because you don’t like it?

  11. Patty C,

    I love animals. I have a dog that I absolutely love. And it’s not a little yappy one either. He’s a rotweiler/beagle mix. I wonder if that’s considered a designer dog?

    If you think that I’m Seamus or Bob, then fine. It’s seems that you’re the only one who feels that way, so I really am not too concerned.

  12. Sally 1, November 7, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    I hate little dogs like that. They’re useless, little yappy dust mops as far as I’m concerned.


    There was never any doubt, in my mind, that you are not a lawyer…

    However, you do appear to be related to the likes of ‘Thingum’ Bob Esq and/or ‘seamus’ who are neither lawyers, in the true sense, or ‘animal lovers’ either – unlike myself!

    I would like to see the Obama’s adopt a Springer Spaniel mix or German Short Haired Pointer mix for the WH and name him ‘Montel’ – ‘Monte’,
    for short.

  13. Mespo

    I define a stupid lawsuit as a situation where someone is trying to gain a large settlement from another party because the “at fault” party has a large amount of money.

    Like the lady with the hot coffee from McDonalds or the people who tried to sue McDonalds because it made them fat.

    The dog doesn’t have rabies….we would have heard about that one. Wouldn’t it be covered under workmans comp? I’m sure the guy will survive.

    It’d be a different story if the dog was bigger and seriously injured the guy.

    Such a vicious dog indeed!! Take it out back and shoot it! Who knows what this little dog may try to eat next! Let’s not introduce it to Obama’s daughters new little puppy!! Things could get ugly

  14. Sally:

    “stupid lawsuits please.”


    Most people define “stupid lawsuits” as those cases that don’t involve harm or injury to them or their family or close friends.

  15. Sally, Sally, Sally:

    This could be one of the most important constitutional and tort cases of the century. George Bush is actually trying to have reporters devoured by vicious animals. Have you no outrage?

  16. But Sally, lawyers, well some, but probably not tax lawyers, pay taxes–don’t they? Any .Esqs care to confirm or deny the tax question?

  17. I hate little dogs like that. They’re useless, little yappy dust mops as far as I’m concerned.

  18. We may not get Bush impeached or have him punished for high crimes and misdemeanors, but perhaps some Philadelphia lawyer can get him imprisoned for abusing Barney to the point of causing his vicious behavior.

    I do not want more harm to the reporter; however, a non-life threatening infection of his finger should help in any lawsuit.

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