How to prevent dog bites
In June 2017, an Arlington police officer was bitten by a dog as he responded to a report that the animal had become aggressive. The officer later filed for workers’ compensation due to injuries and has to date received roughly $12,000 from the city.
Nearly two years later, the city is suing the dog’s owner, claiming she is responsible for the funds.
The City of Arlington, the plaintiff, is taking legal action in this case due to Texas Labor Code laws that give insurance carriers the right to act on behalf of the injured individual in seeking damages, according to documents filed in Tarrant County Court on Friday. Officer Trenton Fite had complained that Vickie Schow allowed her pit bull to run outside, where the dog bit him.
Claiming negligence, Arlington is seeking a judgment ordering Schow to pay $12,011.71 — the total for the workers’ compensation — along with attorney fees and other costs, according to the documents.
Attempts to reach Schow on Saturday were unsuccessful.
“As a proximate result of Defendant’s negligence,” Arlington’s lawyer, Timothy R. White, said in the lawsuit, “it was necessary for Plaintiff, a Self-Insured subdivision who paid workers’ compensation benefits, to bring this lawsuit in order to recover damages.”
The case illustrates how, under the Texas Labor Code, insurers provide money to employees as part of workers’ compensation but have the right to use legal action to make those they deem liable pay.
The incident in question occurred on or around June 9, 2017, when Fite was responding to an animal ordinance call on Windstone Drive, according to the documents. Fite stepped out of his patrol car and was met by a dog racing toward him, the lawsuit says.
The dog reportedly bit Fite on the right shin, causing him to try to back away from the dog and twist his left knee. He suffered lacerations and contusions on his right shin, along with a left knee sprain and medial meniscus tear, the lawsuit states.
Arlington contends in the lawsuit Schow should have secured her dog or given Fite sufficient warning that the dog was loose, aggressive and posed a threat.
“Defendant’s negligent conduct was the sole and proximate cause of Mr. Fite’s injuries,” White said in the lawsuit. “Therefore, Mr. Fite is entitled to assert a claim of negligence against Defendant.”
The Texas Labor Code indicates that a workers’ compensation insurance carrier has an interest “in a third-party action against the individual or entity that caused the claimant’s injuries,” according to the documents. The amount recovered is meant to reimburse the carrier for their expenses related to benefits.
Fite, under the Texas Labor Code, would be obliged to use any recovery funds he receives from Schow to reimburse Arlington.
Arlington is seeking a judgment from a judge as opposed to a jury trial.