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Emotional Support: Teacher’s Dog Bites Child at School

If a teacher’s dog bit a child on school property, would the teacher’s personal liability policy respond or would it be excluded? And would the school be liable?
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emotional support: teacher’s dog bites child at school

Teachers at a school were discussing whether the school should get an emotional support dog. Some teachers thought that they could bring their own pet to school.

Q: If a teacher's dog bit a child on school property, would the teacher's personal liability policy respond or would it be excluded? Also, would the school be liable since the incident happened at the school?

Response 1: The teacher's unendorsed ISO homeowners policy would probably deny coverage because of the business exclusion. 

It's impossible to know if the school would be “brought into the situation." As a general rule, anybody can sue for anything anytime, so the answer to that question is probably yes—but it's a legal question. 

The questions for an insurance agent are: One, would the school have insurance for such a lawsuit? And two, would the school's insurance provide protection for a teacher? Those are impossible to answer too without specific information about the situation and the school's coverage. 

As a dog owner, I'd advise against bringing a pet into the school. It involves three highly unpredictable factors: dogs, children and insurance adjusters.

Response 2: Assuming there is no payment for this service, I don't know of any standard homeowners exclusion that would apply. The individual teacher's coverage would respond, as well as the school's policy.

However, the worst-case scenario would involve the pet being removed. I recommend the teacher should keep Lassie at home for their family to love at the end of the day.

Response 3: The teacher's coverage depends on the content of her comprehensive personal liability policy—the carrier might deny coverage based on a business exclusion or any other exclusion or limitation in the policy. 

And yes, likely the school would be brought into any claim from the get-go since the dogs were permitted by the school and the bite may occur on the school premises.

Response 4: Regarding a client's personal liability, the carrier is most likely to consider the situation business-related and may deny the claim on that basis. If the carrier knows the exposure and is willing to provide coverage, document that carefully. 

The school's liability policy may also define "insured" to include the teacher, but that would need to be ascertained. Also, not just a bite but serious scratches, allergic reactions and other trauma could cause a problem. A claim would possibly lead to a nonrenewal and more expensive replacement coverage. 

Nice idea to bring the dog to school, but not something you should recommend.

Response 5: This depends on the breed and history of the dog and the wording of the teacher's policy. If they have support dogs, the school should get an endorsement to its policy to cover the exposure.

Response 6: This is a legal question and states have varying laws and definitions on what a dog owner can be held liable for. You need to look at the teacher's homeowners policy. Unless the policy contains a canine liability exclusion, it might provide protection for an incident,. However, since this would arise out of the teacher's business exposure, the business exclusion would come into play. 

Also, there might be liability for emotional trauma, which is not covered by homeowners insurance. If the school allows the dogs to be brought to school, it could be held legally liable as well.

This question was originally submitted by an agent through the Big “I" Virtual University's (VU) Ask an Expert service, with responses curated from multiple VU faculty members. Answers to other coverage questions are available on the VU website. If you need help accessing the website, request login information.

This article is intended for general informational purposes only, and any opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s). The article is provided “as is" with no warranties or representations of any kind, and any liability is disclaimed that is in any way connected to reliance on or use of the information contained therein. The article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal or other professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for obtaining such advice. If specific expert advice is required or desired, the services of an appropriate, competent professional, such as an attorney or accountant, should be sought.

Friday, October 29, 2021