2 Year Old Bitten By Dog at the Centurion Lounge: Who’s Responsible?

A family is suing American Express and Dallas Fort-Worth airport because their two year old was bitten by a dog in the DFW airport Centurion lounge.

This occurred over the summer before the new Centurion lounge opened at the end of September. So this happened in the original Centurion lounge across from gate D15.

The boy “spotted a dog sitting in its owner’s lap.” The mother reports that it was not in a carrier or leashed.

The Duffys didn’t see what happened next, but they heard it.

“We heard screaming and blood went everywhere,” she said.

That dog bit Rowan in the face.

Panicked, his parents Christine and Jason Duffy rushed him to an urgent care center in the terminal.

Meanwhile, passengers and lounge employees stood by. No one called police.

In the midst of the mayhem, Duffy said the dog owner and her pet simply walked away.

The airport didn’t take action. Local ordinances require reporting of dog bites but the airport explains those rules do not apply to it “because the property is located in multiple jurisdictions.”

The Centurion lounge’s rules for pets are they they must “remain in their carriers and with their owners at all times.” Should American Express staff be required to notice when this rule is being violated and take action? Lounges are often sufficiently crowded that it would be difficult to even notice.

It seems like the issue here ought to be between the family and the dog owner, which doesn’t likely have the deep pockets that American Express or DFW airport does. What do you think, who is at fault here and in what proportion?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Why was a 2 year old far enough away from his parents so this would happen with out them seeing it in the first place?

  2. No, the issue should be between the family and the dog owner AND American Express AND DFW. Let the courts figure it out. I sure as heck don’t want those rodents running around anywhere free to do whatever they want with no repercussions.

  3. That’s tragic! So sad for the boy; hopefully his injuries to the face were not so sever as to be permanent. But I fault AX (not DFW Airport). AX allowed the dog into the CL and has a “policy”; therefore, AX has a duty to the customer (ie: the invitee) to use reasonable care to enforce that “policy”. I think it is reasonable to expect that AX monitor dog owners (I’ve never seen a dog in the CL so there cannot be that many). Perhaps dogs should only be allowed in a certain area so they can be monitored for “policy” compliance?? Agreed that AX has the deep pockets but that is not the issue here. In my opinion, the customer, as an invitee, has a claim against AX (and not DFW Airport).

  4. @Michael seems to have it right.

    If they do enforce the policy and just didn’t notice vs. not bothering to enforce seems relevant.

  5. A pet owners obligation is to protect their pets from harm and protect others from being harmed. Most of these lounges today are very lax once you get in, little sense of decorum and it’s sad.

    AX needs to review their policy regarding pet’s as well as the front desk when seeing a customer entering with a pet to remind them of their responsibility or even sign a waiver. Most of us that travel a great deal for business only want a little peace and quiet if only for a few minutes these days looking at the food bar one would thing many of these people have not eaten in a week or their kids are touching everything like their at home.

    just saying

  6. These comments are amusing.. why don’t the parents take responsibility and watch their 2 year old child? The kid got exactly what they deserved and parents should be fined for idiocy. Thank you, next

  7. Lawyer here negligence on part of AX for creating a policy and not enforcing it. Also name the owner on the complaint. Courts will decide.


  8. While it burns me that the staff thought it would be a great idea to not call the police, not call for medical help, and just let the attacking dog and owner walk away, the parents should have kept a closer eye on their child.

  9. Both, the dog’s owner for not muzzling a biting dog in public and the lounge for allowing the dog inside. But it also depends on the events leading to the bite. Was the child supervised? Did the child taunt or harass the dog?

    Airport police, at a minimum, should have filed an incident or accident report.

    I’m sure this will be settled before trial.

  10. @Alan Couldn’t agree more. Why the hell do people have to take their dogs with them EVERYWHERE? A lounge that is trying to project a luxurious image should be able to prevent any animals from entering (with the obvious exception of guide dogs). Take your “emotional support animal” and go sit by your gate with a Cinnabon.

  11. most dog owners will ditch the scene and/or pretend there’s no big deal to any of their dog incidents. animals shouldn’t be allowed in airports and flights, since it’s obtrusive to many of those paying for their seats. If u can’t fly without your pet, don’t fly at all… or have seating in luggage cargo available where ppl can sit There with their pets (you’d see all of a sudden, ppl won’t mind Sparky being left at home).

  12. As Darin said, no rodents (the kid) should be running around free unsupervised doing whatever it pleases. Dogs don’t attack unless. There should be more regulations for children at lounges and busines/first class. I’ve had plenty paid flight experiences ruined by badly behaved children.

  13. I own 4 dogs, and regularly foster “problem” dogs for the SPCA. Pregnant females, abused dogs with issues, etc…

    It’s the owners fault. I say this, because when you as an owner, bring a dog into a public setting – You are responsible for it’s actions. If someone breaks into my backyard and one of my dogs mauls them – That’s there fault. If I walk my dog on the beach, and bring it to a tiki bar and it bites someone – That’s on me. Same goes for a lounge. I also don’t blame the lounge owners. (Although they likely have the biggest bank account, so they will be sued)

    As an aside: Owners really should know better. Of my 4 dogs, none are aggressive. However, I know which ones temperaments are suitable to being in public and around children. If my Basset Hound has it’s ears being aggressively pulled by a 2 year old, she will pretty much just deal it. My old Chihuahua would nip at the kid. She was an abused dog I adopted as an adult, and has no teeth. (So the kid would get a gumming I guess) So she takes no shit. However, It’s my responsibility as an owner to assure these situations don’t happen.

  14. As Darin said those rodents (kids) should not be left unsupervised, there should be more regulations on their access to lounges and premium cabins. A dog would not attack unprovoked. Its parents are to blame.
    I’ve never had a flight experience ruined by an animal, but plenty of times by brat tantrums.

  15. @Mike L wins the internet for the day …. “go sit by your gate with a Cinnabon”. LOL!!!!!

  16. Fault lies with the dog owner, AX, and maybe DFW. While a jury would be responsible for determining the proportion, the victim can collect the full damage award from any of the defendants regardless of their proportion. Even if it’s only one percent. In most states, including Texas, under common law, joint and several liability enables the claimant to collect the full damage award from any of the negligent parties regardless of their share. Typically it’s the one with the deep pockets who then can sue other obligators to force them to pay their share. In this case AX will likely be left holding the bag.

  17. Yet another sign that the RATTY AMEX brand has gone to the dogs? First AMEX hurt their customers with clawbacks and scratching awards from Simon, but now we find AMEX really bites? Hope that dog in the Centurian lounge had his rabies vaccine – did the lounge staff even bother to check?

  18. Since when did “your personal pet” get the rights to infringe on others’ freedom of movement? What happened to the requirements that pets be in proper containers, or restrained so as to minimize the threats to others?

    Your pets also get stressed by travel. The pets were always so friendly or docile, until they weren’t or that was the “first time the animal ever did that”.

    If pet owners don’t take responsibility for keeping their pets contained, they should bear the liability for their inaction or negligence.

  19. My wife has a service dog. Because of his breeding and two years of training under the watchful eyes of Service Dogs International (CDI) trainers, he would not bite anyone or another animal. As his handler my wife is responsible for his safety because if attacked by another animal or provoked by a person he would not respond or protect himself. Nevertheless he carries a $3 million liability policy.
    If pet owners were required to carry a $3 million liability insurance policy to move about in public with their animals we’d see far fewer instances of bad behavior because the cost of insurance would be prohibitive.

  20. Not sure how anyone can blame AX or DFW.

    Almost all of the animals in the airport are fakes but the airlines/Amex/DFW can’t do anything about since it is protected under federal law. As I was flying recently, the woman behind me told the adjoining passenger, I bring Betsy with me because she gets very stressed when I travel. I suppose that makes her an emotional support human!

  21. Mostly intelligent, well-reasoned answers. Except for @Walker and @Nina – two obvious child-haters who clearly have deep-seated issues of their own and probably travel regularly with some obnoxious pet, ruining the trips of hundreds of their fellow travelers. Self-centered assholes who consider their pets (or any of their own whims) more important than other human beings are a sign that our civilization has entered it’s final days.

    Agree that @Mike L wins the internet today!

  22. Americans are weird, keep the damn dog outside, I hope ghey sue DFW, sue the hell out of Amex and find the damn owners and sue their sorry asses on animal cruelty, only in America

  23. Thoughts:
    (1) Been there. Was bit by a neighborhood dog when I was three. Still remember it. I still like dogs. Taught me to be careful around dogs.
    (2) As an adult, I realize that it was most likely a warning bite, since I was not seriously hurt. My skin was not even broken.
    (3) The unintended consequence of a successful lawsuit against Amex for a dog, will be Amex banning all dogs, except for fully documented service dog. If you like your ability to bring Fluffy into the Amex lounge, then you should be against this suit.
    (4) Similarly, a large successful lawsuit against DFW, will probably lead to Airports all over the country protecting themselves by restricting dogs in the airport. If you like bringing Fluffy into the airport, you should be against this lawsuit.
    (5) Dogs are animals and not people. Moreover, different dogs have different characteristics that have been bred into them by natural selection or humans breeding dogs. Having your German Shepard guarding your toddler is always a bad idea, because the German Shepard sees the toddler as subordinate dog. If the German Shepard growls at a subordinate dog, that subordinate dog rolls over on its back, conflict over. German Shepard growls at a toddler, it continues to stand up and cries. Following its instincts, the German Shepard attacks. The instinct are all wrong. Owners should control their dogs. Moreover, owners should stop thinking that their dogs are people. (Seriously: You cannot train a dog by talking to them.)

  24. Parents are responsible for there kids,I have a 90lb Lab that is sweet as pie,but when kids want to smack him,grab him than he no longer is sweet as pie,i tell parents and i watch those full of energy (TT) terrible two’s kids ,be nice and no HITTING, so PARENTS DO YOUR JOB AND WATCH YOUR KIDS PERIOD!!!!!!!

  25. @Mike L:Take your “emotional support animal” and go sit by your gate with a Cinnabon.

    But the reason I need the ESA is I’m already fat and don’t have any other friends. For you to suggest a 993 calorie Cinnabon ( the only thing worse being an 1100 calorie Pecanbon) is starting to trigger me.
    You’re just a meanie.

    My dogs are sweethearts around kids, but if the kid hurts the dog by grabbing it’s tail or something else stupid they are likely to get rebuked. A two year old should not be running around the lounge.

    Parents, take responsibility for your brat.
    That’s why they have a kid’s area.
    As to the purported internet lawyers commenting, you’d better hope I don’t end up on the jury.

  26. Airport Lounges are for adult human being. Toddler, babies, rodents, pets shouldnt be allowed in there.

  27. Taming the beasts or the little savages? In the spirit of equality I propose that all animals and all children under 18 be banned from airplanes and airport lounges unless caged and muzzled.

    Apologies in advance to the litigation lawyers who would as a result suffer a decline in revenue.

  28. Just flew through DFW a few weeks ago & visited the new Centurion lounge. It was awful. Noisy, packed, dirty, unsupervised children running up and down the length of it. Good thing I’m not an Amex customer for the airport lounge benefit, because it surely isn’t one.

    If Amex is at fault for not enforcing the policy of dogs in carriers, it is equally at fault for not enforcing the policy of unsupervised children. But they don’t, because they can’t. Can you imagine the ruckus that would ensue if any of the underpaid staff in those lounges actually approached a traveler and said you need to put your dog back in a carrier, or especially if they approached the type of parent who thinks junior can do no wrong (which is why they have such an undisciplined kid in the first place) and asked them to reign their child in? I can’t see how Amex can do anything about it once people are inside the lounge. And if the answer is, well then you can’t come in with small children or pets … that’s a crap business model for them too. (Although there is something to be said about allowing children in to an area where alcohol is served, that might be an angle if Amex really wanted to go there).

    Oh and if an incident like this occurs, Amex staff are supposed to stop a person from leaving the lounge? How are they going to do that? Even if they call the airport police, that still leaves quite a bit of time for a person to leave. So again, there’s liability and then there’s reality.

    In this situation, I feel badly for the child, and I feel badly for the dog owner. As a dog owner, I wouldn’t take the risk of bringing my dog around people like that (if I had to take him out of the carrier, I’d find a quieter spot than that awful Centurion lounge) because I know that no matter what happened, I would be blamed as a bad dog owner and be liable. As a parent, I would never let my child run around unsupervised anywhere in a confined public space like an airport because I wouldn’t risk her life like that and would never forgive myself if she were hurt because I had placed a priority on getting a free crudites plate and bagel over her safety.

    From a moral standpoint, it seems to me that Amex, the dog owner, and the parents all have some culpability in what happened. But because Amex has the money, they’ll be the ones ultimately deemed liable and who’ll pay. Which of course means it will be all of us who wind up footing the bill in terms of higher fees and less services.

    The glee some of you commenting are expressing towards pet owners and getting to stick it to the man (Amex in this case) and the auto-defense that all children are wonderful beautiful gifts from God whose parents have no responsibility for their behavior is depressing.

  29. I think many of the comments have missed a critical part of the story:
    “Meanwhile, passengers and lounge employees stood by. No one called police. In the midst of the mayhem, Duffy said the dog owner and her pet simply walked away.”
    This may be why AmEx is responsible.
    If the AmEx staff had called the police, the dog owner would have been identified. But AmEx failed to properly respond to the injury. As a result, the child’s family cannot identify the dog owner.
    IMHO, AmEx is responsible because through their failure to respond they aided the dog owner escaping responsibility.
    This is not criminal liability. The likelihood is that no one on the AmEx staff wanted to help the dog owner escape responsibility.
    But if they had a legal responsibility to aid their customer, in the moment, they failed.
    Is AmEx legally liable? Maybe. Did the AmEx staff act properly? No.


  31. @Joe: My toddler kept quiet and was well-behaved in the lounge yesterday—as opposed to the traveling brahs who loudly pounded drink after drink. At 7:45 AM.

  32. I think Amex can ban ESA’s but not ADA assistance/guidedogs. Reason being ADA guarantees access for assistance/guide dogs but it is Air Carriet Act and Fair Housing Act that guarantee access for ESAs. That is why ESAs can fly but can br banned by restaurants.

  33. Kids should always be supervised by their parents, but little kids can be unpredictable. Had this dog been properly supervised & caged by its owner, this would not have occurred. It is up to AE to enforce the cage rule, & AE should step up & take responsibility along with the dog owner, who did not abide by the rule.
    Airlines have become too lax allowing people to do anything with their pets.
    I”ve often heard announcements given on a plane to ask people not to eat foods with peanuts because of allergic people on the plane, however, what about those people highly allergic to dogs & especially cats. How is that ever handled??

  34. In order of responsibility:
    1. The dog owner
    2. The kid’s parent
    3. The AX lounge
    4. AA
    But since AA is the one with the deepest pockets is going to be the lawyers preferred target, and of course the one ending up paying for the damages…sad

    I just pray that the kid’s face bite marks are not going to be permanent…double sad

  35. The absolutists on both sides are funny. My guess is that 95% of people would prefer my well behaved Basset Hound snoozing in a lounge, as opposed to a bunch of unruly children running about, making noise, and causing a scene.

    You could also flip “basset hound” and “children” in the above sentence, and the same would apply.

  36. Why wasn’t the 2-year old in a carrier?
    Why aren’t its parents in parenting classes? Or kept in a carrier?

  37. Jeez, all these comments have gotten me very upset. I’m completely out of control. I’m heading to my local mall. I won’t be able to settle down until I get my hands on a BIG box of Cinnabon’s and have eaten… Every. Single. One.

  38. My 2 year old got a minor bit once from a nanny’s friend’s dog who had met him before. Unprovoked, fortunately to real injury. But the idea that dogs never attack unprovoked is nonsense

  39. It would have been relatively simple, since Amex logs all people coming into the Centurion Lounge, to get name of owner of the dog. My recommendation is to sue the dog owner for negligence but then fault the parents for contributory negligence by not watching their kid closely enough. Obviously they have an ambulance chaser going after the deep pockets. I fully expect both Amex and DFW to settle (quietly and probably for less than any figure thrown out by the ambulance chaser) since a jury trial is a crap shoot and it will likely be covered by insurance anyway. Of course the insurance company doesn’t really “pay” for it since it will be baked in the rate base and all their other policy holders will end up covering the cost. The American civil trial system is a joke. Let something happen and someone has to be at fault so people immediately have their hand out. Whoever came up with the concept of money curing issues like this is crazy as it surely doesn’t – just a windfall for the recipients. Of course in the case of long term care costs or out of pocket the injured party should be made whole but money isn’t bringing someone back. If we could just do away with the trail lawyers the world would be a better place!

  40. Why is the parent letting a 2 year run around a lounge?
    If the dog is in the owners lap and minding its own business, then its on the Parents for not keeping track of their child. You can blame the dog all you want, but it doesnt happen if the parents didnt lose their child in a public place. Its not the worlds responsibily to keep track of their child
    Its going to be decided differently of course, AMEX is gonna pay and maybe the dog owner.

    Parents know that not all dogs wont bite, if a parent is parenting, it doesnt happen.

  41. Regardless of who is sued, all you pet owners can thank this dog owner for likely getting your pets banned from AX CL after the court case is determined.

    Should have left the pets at home.

  42. In order of responsibility:
    1. The dog owner YES
    2. The kid’s parent YES Watch your kid The parents should have called the police
    3. The AX lounge NOPE — They had a duty of care to enforce the rule but when a customer circumvents the rules on purpose then they can not be held responsible.
    4. AA — had nothing to do with the incident.

    ADA dogs should be the ONLY animals allowed on planes. ESA should be allowed in the owners Vehicles

    When my niece’s own dog was bit in the face by her own dog. The dog was put down. Required to by state law. Was not her dad’s fault that she as a 19 yr old put her face near the dog’s face and the dog turned and ripped her lip. It was Her fault for putting her face there.

    That 2 yr old kid may not have know to stick his face in the dog’s face but it was the PARENTS to know not to LET the kid do it.

    How could AX or DFW forced the dog owner NOT to let the dog out? If you can not answer that question then how can you hold them liable ?

  43. Animals belong at home, not in airports, not on airplanes and definitely NOT in the lounges. If it’s not a guide dog, not allowed. There’s a way to transport them, in a carrier at all times and in a separate part of the plane. This emotional support thing has gotten beyond ridiculous. If you can’t leave home without it, stay home….or bring your stuffed animal. I’ve been turned away from an AmEx lounge, which are overcrowded with people so clearly animals should not be permitted.
    As for the 2 yr old, it only takes a blink of an eye for them to be into something they shouldn’t be. I suspect the person left the lounge with the dog because it would probably be found that it has a history of this type of behavior. Any decent human being would have stuck around to make sure the child was OK.
    I hope they find the owner and he/she is made financially responsible for the incident.

  44. Responsibility 1 : The parents. Who asked them to let their crotch goblins run around without supervision.
    Responsibility 2 : Dog owner. You always need to be careful when a young kid is near your dog. You also need to be careful about your dogs behaviour in public. My first dog, Jimmy Baba, was rescued by me when he was 12 years old. Because of his circumstances he was quite a little snapping turtle. Till I could train him properly, I always warned parents when their kids came to play with him.

  45. There is plenty of blame to go around. My take is 50% the dog owner. I am sure the owner knew the rules – dog must be in carrier. I am sure they also knew the dogs personality. The owners are responsible for the dogs action. 35% parents. As others have said – watch your kids. The rest of the world are not the one’s responsible for your kids – the parents are. 15% the lounge. I don’t blame the lounge much for not noticing the dog was out of it’s carrier. You set rules, but it is not reasonable to have someone continually cruising the lounge looking for rule violators. These are supposed to be adults here. But someone from the lounge must have appeared pretty quickly if there was yelling and blood. The lounge should not have let the dog owner leave without getting a name, and the authorities should have been notified. While extremely unlikely, the bite or bites could have caused serious consequences. What is the value of the accident? This is where Americans need to get real. Kids get hurt all the time. It does not appear anything serious resulted. Maybe $1,000 at most, and probably not even that, if the kid healed quickly and no flights were missed. More if flights were missed, and more if the kid suffered more serious injury. Nothing for sure for any mental trauma. The kid (and maybe parents to) should have learned a lesson, which is a plus, not a negative. So hire a lawyer and make a big deal, and sue the lounge for $150 (15% of $1,000).

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