Master and Commander: The Bidens Are Now Strictly Liable for German Shepherd

I have been writing for years about the deepening legal problems associated with the biting of secret service agents and others at the White House by the Biden dogs. The repeat offender remains Commander who has at least a dozen biting incidents. Under the common law, Commander is now considered a vicious animal and the Bidens are now strictly liable for such bites. What is notable is that liability for such bites could fall on the taxpayers. [Commander has become the latest Biden dog sent into exile due to biting people].

New pictures have emerged of Commander biting another White House staffer. This follows a recent new biting episode involving a Secret Service agent.

The Bidens previously suggested that an agent was lying about a bite by Major, the other Biden dog, that required him to seek medical treatment. President Biden effectively called an agent a liar in allegations of being attacked in the White House. Major was eventually sent to the farm and the media, again, did not press the White House on the lack of transparency over the long pattern of dog attacks.

Now the White House is blaming the fact that the president’s security detail have “unfriendly expressions.”  That would not wash legally.

Under the common law, the Bidens could claim that Major and Commander were entitled to “one free bite.” They are well beyond that threshold.

The “one free bite rule” is a commonly misunderstood torts doctrine — suggesting that you are not subject to strict liability until after the first time your dog bites someone. In fact, you are subject to strict liability whenever you know or have reason to know of the vicious propensity of your animal. That can be satisfied by conduct such as frequent snapping or aggressive behavior.

However, even with Major, the Bidens failed to protect agents and others. Now they have shown the same failure with Commander.

Indeed, a family with this history of dog attacks (with successive pets) would face a highly skeptical, if not hostile, court in a tort action.

The Biden case is more analogous to  the infamous case from San Francisco involving lawyers and dog owners Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel. They were found both criminally and civilly liable after their two Presa Canario dogs killed apartment neighbor Diane Whipple. Various neighbors had complained about the dogs. The dogs had not bitten anyone but were known to be aggressive. That was sufficient.

In one account involving Commander, an agent had to defend himself from the dog with a chair. That was after prior biting incidents. As many as ten people were either bitten or threatened by the dog.

The latest victim was Dale Haney, 71, who is not part of Biden’s security team and presumably not showing an unfriendly face.

Since the White House is a government facility, the taxpayers could be liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Lutz v. United States, 685 F.2d 1178 (9th Cir. 1982). In Lutz, the failure of an airman to control his pets was deemed a violation of the law because the maintenance of the dog was subject to military regulation.

Working dogs are subject to such tort actions when they bite third parties. However, Commander is not a working dog for a federal agency. The D.C. Circuit has held in Nelson v. United States, 838 F.2d 1280 (D.C. Cir. 1988), that pets on federal property “do not run to the benefit of the employer and are linked only incidentally with the employment relationship, they cannot be said to be discharged within the scope of employment.”

Moreover, courts have barred strict liability claims against the U.S. government: “the Federal Tort Claims Act itself precludes the imposition of liability if there has been no negligence or other form of ‘misfeasance or nonfeasance.'” Laird v. Nelms, 406 U.S. 797, 798-99 (1972).

Yet, there could be negligence in this case as federal employees continue to order Secret Service members and staffers to work around a legally vicious dog. The failure to take reasonable precautions can be used for liability. You cannot just continue to feed federal employees to a president’s dog like they are landing at Normandy as a matter of attrition.

Suing a federal employee under state law has long been difficult. In Westfall v. Erwin, 484 U.S. 292 (1988), the Court held that federal officials enjoy absolute immunity from state tort lawsuits for money damages when their conduct was both within the scope of employment and discretionary in nature.

Congress responded to the ruling with the Westfall Act to eliminate  the “discretionary” requirement so that there is immunity from state tort lawsuits for money damages if employees are acting within the scope of employment during the alleged incident.

Under the Act, an Attorney General or designee can certify that  a federal employee was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the alleged incident and the lawsuit is then removed to federal court and proceeds as an action against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act. 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(2).

As a result, the taxpayers could find themselves in prolonged litigation over these dog bites. At the same time, they are liable for the medical and other damages for federal employees injured on the job.

As for the Bidens, they are subject to strict liability. However, it is difficult for Secret Service agents to sue a protected family and the Bidens know it. They are the ultimate captive audience. That is not the case for civilians in the White House compound.

They are not required to assume the role of chew toys for presidential pets.  The Bidens are well beyond their one free bite.  They are now clearly in possession of a vicious animal under the common law and can be held strictly liable as a result.

70 thoughts on “Master and Commander: The Bidens Are Now Strictly Liable for German Shepherd”

  1. More silver-spoon blanket immunity for the Bidens. Any ordinary family in most jurisdictions would have: 1) long ago been prohibited from owning vicious dogs; 2) required to, at the very least, muzzle the offending dog, or 3) ordered by local authorities to “put-down” (euthanize) such a repeat offender. It’s no wonder Joe Biden’s children are degenerates (or at least seriously psychologically damaged). The fool and his wife can’t even raise a pet dog to behave. Pity the the other dog owners/friends at the local dog park.

  2. “. . . a family with this history of dog attacks . . .”

    Typical Biden behavior. Standards and boundaries do not apply. Do whatever you feel like doing, including using others as a chew toy. Then when caught, blame others.

    A decent human being, who respected the rights of others, would have had that dog hauled off long ago.

    1. Standards and boundaries? Perhaps Joe should use his predecessor Donald as the model for keeping to standards and boundaries? The (shameless) hypocrisy has no boundaries among the True Believers….

      1. However, if using Donald as an example is just to triggering, how about those MAGA models of standards, boundaries, and personal decorum MTG or “Good Time” LoLo Boebert?

      2. TDS: a terrible disease affecting the brains of sufferers, who associate anything and everything with Donald Trump. Biden has a nasty dog? Yeah, well Trump’s worse! Hunter slogged millions of corrupt dollars over to The Big Guy? OK, but what about Trump? Bad hair day? Yep, you guessed it: Trump’s fault. I hope you find a competent therapist who can help remove the former POTUS from your brain. Thoughts and prayers.

        1. Fair comment and I need to avoid the automatic response of associating everything to Trump… BUT what about proof that Hunter “slogged millions…. to the Big Guy” – there simply is none at this time. NONE (don’t you think if Jordan et al possessed any, it would be released at the recent hearings?). Could you possibly have the same automatic response to Joe? Also, context: Biden’s dog bites — Biden is indecent, horrible, criminal, and so’s his family, and worse, and even worse….. And with all the (in my view) pressing judicial news, Turley feels the need to write a column about this matter – seems more than just a little biased. Nevertheless, I will consider your point and be mindful of it going forward.

  3. Wow – thank you for the cutting edge legal analysis re: this critical issue impacting our nation. The U.S. is indeed fortunate to have a legal mind, such as Professor Turley’s, addressing so quickly anything that could possibly paint our president and his simply awful Democrat (sic) Party in a negative light.
    Strong work JT! Say it with me: I say “MAGA” you say “Turley” – MAGA! Turley! MAGA! Turley!

  4. Oh stop. These poor sweet animals. Bad parenting! We bred and trained guard and attack dogs, including for police organizations. These are pack animals, and they always seek to establish their pecking order within the pack. I strongly suspect that not only were these pets not properly socialized or appropriately played with as pups (e.g. allowed to bite hahaha), but also, because of who they belong to, have been given unwarranted deference giving them the wrong idea about their status in the surrounding “pack”, and because of where they are, and the inconsistency of caregivers and handlers, also are confused. The problem does not seem to be one of unusually fearful or abused animals, or (two ?!) with inherently bad dispositions.

    I hate to see dogs “put down” because of human stupidity. Send them to a normal family that doesn’t tend to raise criminal nutjob offspring.

    (Toddlers and little kids, as well as ignorami strangers, also need to learn not to behave in certain ways around grown but younger and untrained animals who can be stressed to the limit by pokes and pulls, unaccustomed “play”, or behavior that alarms them — and unintentionally cause injury to those to whom they are not bonded and do not feel protective.)

  5. In other news: “After Congress Nixes Aid to Ukraine, President Offers Attack-Dog ‘Commander’ as War Matériel.”
    Frustrated by Congress not approving the expected funds to Ukraine as part of a Stop-Gap Spending Measure, The President offered his personal attack dog Commander as an Erzatz Good in the hopes of reassuring Volodymyr Zelenskyy of America’s resolve to protect his beleaguered nation.

    Pundits admitted that offering the K-9 had a dual purpose, to get rid of the problem domestically and to also offer a substite the Ukrainians would accept over hard cash and weaponry.

    Biden had Commander fitted with a bandana under the dog’s chin with the words “FRONT, TOWARD ENEMY” translated into Ukrainian.

    An instruction paper included on how to safely handle the wardog recommended training the dog to associate friends, police officers, gardners, children, and the elderly, with Russian Troops. He enclosed several shirts previously used by Secret Service Agents to be worn by simulated “Russian Soldiers” during training to condition the dog to attack the Russians.

    “Be sure to never show love or affection to this dog,” the President wrote, “else it will bite you in the arse every time.”

  6. I appreciate the legal analysis, now Ill give you the small town truth.

    Men of honor respect humans more than dogs. Even a hint of aggressive behavior will get a good dog put down…by an honorable man.

    Just last week I had an appointment with a farmer, I was admiring his blue healer stock dog. The farmer said she was a very good dog. Not as good as the previous one. But he put him down because he bristled at a neighbor kid.
    Not even one free bite, just a hint the dog MIGHT take a nip at a person. That’s how an honorable man prioritizes his world.

    1. Very interesting.

      My wife and I had a dog that we loved. He bit my very young daughter on the cheek. I took my daughter to the emergency room and our dog to the pound without debating, discussing or batting an eye. Luckily, there was no trace of the wound on my daughter after a few weeks.

      1. Yes, these are simple decisions.
        Our daughter was bitten by my brothers Chow. May daughter was sitting next to my brothers wife on the grass as I was helping put some new rings on a grain bin. According to my brothers wife, the dog bit, with no cause.
        The dog was put down before a scab was able to form on her lower lip.

        These are mind numbingly simple concepts. That DC swamp dwellers are clueless to the the real world says a lot.

    2. Maybe I’m not a man of honor because I disagree. When my children were small, there developed what I call the two-year-old rules: no hitting, no kicking, no biting, no spitting. I didn’t come up with those rules from the start; they became necessary because those behaviors occurred. If I can’t even stop a human child from biting once, how can I stop a dog?

      If anyone does something to a dog (like pull its ear or tail) the only language it has is to nip. Likewise a cat will scratch. When my children induced those behaviors, I always asked, what did you do to him? It took several weeks for my two-year-olds to learn how to treat a dog or cat so they wouldn’t nip or scratch. (Prior to that age, the animals could always get away from the babies and didn’t need to nip or scratch.)

      I guess I’m on the side of the dog as opposed to Joe & Jill!

  7. Hmmm

    Biden’s dog is taking a bite out of crime.
    Maybe he needs to bite a different set of DoJ and FBI agents?


  8. It seems that Biden has had a lot of trouble training his family members not to be rapacious members of society.   The best way to gain sympathy for Commander is to get him hooked on drugs.  

  9. The behavior of these dogs speak of an apathy on the part of the owners to not care to give the time and love necessary for training themselves to learn how to socialize the animal so that it understands what is expected of it and that the discipline and direction it is being given is in a framework of love and caring.  This is typical of individuals whose relationship with the animal is transactional, often p to convey some image of themselves, such as the strong man who tamed the wild beast, or of being part of a loving American family with the requisite adopted pet.

    This animal is merely a prop for a Joe Biden fiction about who he is as a person and/or what he has done with his life. Its as callous as his spurning of his granddaughter that she does not fit with his fictional story of himself

  10. It’s all just a dog and pony show.  Newsom is building new Natural Gas plants in California and Joe Biden is building a beautiful wall on the southern border.  Maybe Commander could be repurposed to track down illegals before they can enter the country.  The Governor of New York could take Commander to the border to  convince the illegals not to come to New York.  Surely there must be a sanctuary state that will give poor Commander a home.

  11. What is extremely surprising is why these two ravenous beasts trained to be marauding bloodthirsty whackjobs like the demoncrat party operatives themselves weren’t shot dead on the spot in one of over two dozen incidents like the police do on the regular to every citizens dog ? I suspect there is some kind of training to be a feckless meatbag for the criminal moron purportedly in charge, but none of this being the mutt’s meal is saving a potus’ life – so SHOOT TO KILL should be the new orders so the whack headed monsters in charge can get a clue about living in the real world everyone else occupies.

    1. I had that same thought. If I were carrying, I’d have emptied my magazine into the dog.

      Just another sign of what a dick Joe Biden is. He doesn’t care, probably thinks it is funny and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it

  12. Where do the Bidens get these dogs? This aggression and biting pattern suggests possible inbreeding; even high-end breeders could be tempted to be lax about who makes puppies with whom, to keep up with demand. It also suggests a possible lack of proper puppy socializing, to learn who is part of the household – understanding that Secret Service agents and other White House staff can change – or generally to be “OK” with persons outside the family and inner circle. And did the Bidens never hear of securing pets from outsiders, or using humane muzzles? German Shepherds (I have a GS mix who is an angel) are obviously employed in many military and law enforcement contexts; they would not be if this were their inherent nature.

    Thank you, Professor Turley, for the legal discussion: too many civilians still believe that “one free bite” thing, although many states now look at circumstances, e.g., was the dog chained or otherwise tightly confined, being taunted, protecting a human pack member, etc. And for the federal law discussion – most informative!

  13. “COMMANDER” is the name of Joke Buydem’s dog.

    “COMMANDERS” is the name of the Washington, D.C., NFL team.

    Does anyone see a pattern, nay, obsession here?

    The communists (liberals, progressives, socialists, democrats, RINOs, AINOs) in America are obsessed with “COMMANDING” America and forcibly imposing Karl Marx’s “dictatorship of the hired help” in America, rather than sustaining and allowing freedom, free enterprise, and the “PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS” by free individuals without governmental interference.

    America is the land of the “FREE,” not the land of the “COMMANDED.”

    Where the —- is the Supreme Court wielding its POWER OF JUDICIAL REVIEW for the maximum benefit of free individuals, free people? 

  14. Seems the best option would bring in the cats. They don’t give a damn what the stupid humans do as long as you feed them on time and love them. No leashes needed. The president is not very good with controlling his dog even when walking him with a leash. The dog is too much to control for this enfeebled old man. Better a cat the huge and stroke and then leave at home. None of this nonsense of walking the dog from the helicopter to the limousine just to show you have a “manly pet”. 

    1. Excellent idea! But with understanding that cats (I have 4) have been known to get cranky when asked to dislodge themselves from a nice chair, couch or sofa…..

  15. If the Bidens had lent Commander to Hakeem Jeffries earlier this week, the lock on the door of Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol office would never have been rekeyed.

    Will their next dog be called Captain, Colonel, Admiral, or General? Or Ensign, like Hunter? They could send it to the Senate to vote in place of Kamala, like Caligula’s horse.

  16. Is this one of those no-one-is-above-the-law moments or does “Joe Biden” get a pass?

  17. I think you are looking in the wrong direction for your conclusion. If the offender causes harm in the course of their employment, it would be a federal tort. When the behavior is outside the scope of their employment, however, the federal government would not be a party and the taxpayers would not have to pay anything. When the personal property of the President repeatedly causes injuries and damages to others, it is a personal liability question. There is nothing connecting the offending personal property with the owner’s employment. It is strictly a personal liability question. I conclude every victim can sue the SOB!

  18. One thing which was not mentioned in the analysis is the extent to which federal workers’ compensation laws have an exclusive remedy provision. The federal employees who were bitten could all make federal worker’s compensation claims. If Mr. Biden’s keeping of a pet while residing at the White House is part of the scope of his employment (since the President could be viewed as always being on call), the exclusive remedy provision of federal worker’s compensation would bar tort suits by federal employees.

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