DUNEDIN, Florida. – An appeals court has cleared the way for a lawsuit brought by a man who was bitten by a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office dog while attending an event at a Dunedin baseball stadium.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision dismissing the case filed by Robert McKinley against Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.
The lawsuit alleged that a deputy sheriff was negligent in handling the dog at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, now named TD Ballpark.
Wednesday’s opinion did not specify when the incident occurred or describe the injuries suffered by McKinley. But he rejected arguments that the sheriff was protected from trial by sovereign immunity and that McKinley had placed himself in a ‘risk zone’ by approaching an area occupied by the deputy and the police dog .
The court said McKinley was in a public place.
“As such, he had the right to walk wherever he wanted, taking whatever path he chose to get from point A to point B,” said the 15-page opinion, written by Judge Craig Villanti and joined by Justices Stevan Northcutt and Susan Rothstein. -Youakim. “In fact, McKinley had every right to walk up to the deputy if he wished, and unless the deputy warned him to walk away, McKinley had a reasonable expectation that the dog So the argument that McKinley placed himself in the risk zone by walking into the area where the deputy was standing with the K-9 is without merit, on the contrary, the deputy created the risk area by patrolling the area with his K-9 – whether the deputy was walking around or standing still.”