Police Professional Liability: South Carolina Limits Police Liability for Dog Bites

Police Professional Liability: South Carolina Limits Police Liability for Dog Bites

According to the Insurance Journal, a new South Carolina law provides police K-9 units some protection in court.

Previously, South Carolina’s strict liability statute for dog bites meant criminal suspects could almost certainly collect a settlement if a police dog bit them, regardless of the situation. The law made exceptions only if the person bitten was trespassing on private property or harassing the dog into attacking them. The new law expands the narrow limitations.

The new law which Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law June 12 added an exception for certified police dogs that are on duty and responding to a lawful command or otherwise acting according to their training. Whether or not a K-9 acts appropriately becomes a jury questions. For the exception, the dog and its handler can’t use excessive force and must follow policy

South Carolina is among three dozen states that have strict liability for dog bites and/or attacks. It doesn’t matter if the owner was at fault, negligent or knew the dog was vicious.

The new laws do not give law enforcement immunity. Someone bitten by a K-9 officer can still sue, and win if it is determined that the dog acted inappropriately. However, it does allow officers to have a defense in certain situations. It also does not include situations for dogs who bite while defending the life or safety of their owners- the exception was brought up in the new law, but removed by the House.

K-9 officers face a great deal of liability taking their dogs out in the field. There is immense pressure for them to perform safely and accurately in high pressure, often dangerous situations.