City of Hayward Pays Civil Settlement: Man Dead After Being Bitten by Police Dog (CA Civil Code §3342)

Even though they were searching for men that didn’t match his description – and robbery suspects at that – local law enforcement officers Loring and Cox found 89-year-old Jesse Porter instead.  On May 29, 2011, Porter was in his own yard, behind an 8-foot tall wall, when “Nicky”, Officer Cox’s well-trained police dog was commanded to leap over the barrier.  A shocked Mr. Porter was then “brutally and relentlessly mauled” by Nicky; his left leg suffered the most damage, as the dog dragged him for a ways before releasing his grasp.  After the incident, Porter’s leg worsened; in fact, he developed gangrene, it was necessary for the leg to be amputated. The leg injury led to a further decline in his general health and Porter died approximately 2 months after the occurrence.

Porter’s family promptly filed a civil rights suit against the city of Hayward that has now resulted, years later, in a $1.5 million settlement.  The argument for a settlement was not solely based on the fact that the two Hayward officers had unnecessarily and unreasonably harmed an innocent person – it turns out that “Nicky” had a history of violent behavior that had been left unchecked.  In fact, the dog had bitten close to 29 other persons before Mr. Porter – most of whom were not the suspects he was after.

According to CA Civil Code §3342, the owner of a dog is responsible for any damages – injury or otherwise – that the animal causes.  Clearly, this law extends to those canines that have been trained for police work – especially when that dog has a history of biting innocent people.