A police officer who was bitten in the genitals by a police dog is not entitled to sue for damages without first proving negligence. That was the decision Thursday from a narrowly divided Washington Supreme Court.
In was November of 2010 when a police officer in Tumwater, Washington, and a K-9 unit from the Thurston County Sheriff’s office cornered a burglary suspect. As the handler called the dog back and the officer shouted for the suspect to raise his hands the dog attacked the officer -- biting down and piercing his right testicle.
The officer needed emergency surgery and suffered a permanent injury. He later sued the county and the K-9 handler. But the lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds the dog bite occurred during a “lawful application of a police dog.”
The case split the Supreme Court. Five justices agreed with that conclusion. But four did not with Chief Justice Barbara Madsen writing that this ruling leads to “absurd results” such as immunity if a police dog mauled small children while tracking a fleeing felon.