After being rescued from an icy lake a day earlier, an 85-pound Argentine mastiff attacked a Denver news anchor the next day on live TV. The dog, named Gladiator Maximus, or Max, fell into a frigid Lakewood, Colorado lake Tuesday after chasing a coyote. The dog’s owner did not have the mastiff on a leash and the dog spent about 20 minutes in the water before firefighters arrived to help.
On Wednesday, a live TV news segment was held with the purpose of reuniting the firefighter who rescued the dog, the dog’s owner, and the dog itself. But the reception turned frightening when the mastiff bit the news anchor on the face after she tried to pet the dog. The dog’s owner was subsequently cited for failure to have his dog on a leash, allowing a dog to bite, and failure to have a vaccinated dog. The anchor is reported to be doing well after reconstructive surgery on her lip.
According to the Colorado dog bite statute, someone who has been bitten by a dog is entitled to bring a civil lawsuit to recover economic damages only if they have suffered “serious bodily injury.” The Colorado statues define “serious bodily injury” as an injury that:
"…involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.”
“Bodily injury” means:
"…any physical injury that results in severe bruising, muscle tears, or skin lacerations requiring professional medical treatment or any physical injury that requires corrective or cosmetic surgery.”
The Denver anchor’s injuries most likely fit within the definition of “bodily injury,” but it is uncertain whether they fit into the Colorado statutes definition of “serious bodily injury,” the threshold requirement to bring a civil lawsuit in Colorado. It all hinges on whether her facial injuries will result in “serious permanent disfigurement.”
Oklahoma's dog bite statute is much less restrictive then Colorado’s. Just like Colorado’s law, the owner of the attacking dog is held strictly liable for the injuries, meaning that no form of negligence needs to be pleaded. But Oklahoma’s statute is more favorable to dog bite victims then Colorado’s because there is no restriction on how serious the injury needs to be. There are no restrictions like “serious bodily injury” found in the Oklahoma statute.
However, in both Colorado and Oklahoma, a dog bite victim is not allowed to recover damages if they have provoked the dog. Here, the TV Anchor was petting the dog and got close to its face. Certainly the dog was stressed after what it had been through he day earlier. If it is determined that the anchor provoked the dog, then any potential lawsuit will be barred.