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It has always been said that when man bites dog, it’s a story. But when dog bites dog walker, it eventually becomes case law. The state Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in a case to determine whether a dog walker employed by an Arcata kennel can sue the owner of a 75-pound pit bull that mangled her left leg and ankle. Marta Priebe, who worked for the Arcata Animal Hospital, claims that Russell Nelson is liable for the injuries she sustained while walking his dog Mugsey on Sept. 28, 2000. She contends Nelson comes under state Civil Code � 3342, which makes owners of dogs with known vicious propensities strictly liable for any harm caused by their pets. Nelson, however, argues that Priebe falls within the so-called veterinarian’s rule, which precludes vets from suing owners if bitten by a dog during the course of their work. There is a similar rule regarding the primary assumption of risk for firefighters and others in dangerous professions. “Animals are prone to be unpredictable,” Nelson’s attorney, Chapman, Popik & White partner Susan Popik argued Wednesday. “If it’s a known and inherent risk of the profession, we believe the assumption of risk applies.” The court asked several questions during oral arguments, but it wasn’t clear how they would rule. Priebe was represented in court by Oakland attorney W. Ruel Walker. A ruling is expected within 90 days.

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