DOG BITE LAW
STRICT LIABILITY - DOG BITE STATUTE
BITE: If a dog "bites" you, the law is on your side. When a dog bites a person, the dog owner is, with limited exceptions, automatically responsible to pay for that person's injuries, losses, pain, suffering and other damages.
“The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while [the person is] in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.”
Civil Code Section 3342(a)
Under this law, a person who owns a dog is legally responsible for the harm from a dog bite, no matter how carefully they guard or restrain their dogs. This statute took away the so-called "one free bite" rule.
STRICT LIABILITY - DANGEROUS PROPENSITIES
INJURED BUT NO BITE: If a dog attacks but does not bite a person, the the dog owner is, with limited exceptions, automatically responsible to pay for injured persons but only IF the owner knows or should have known about the dog's dangerous tenancies.
This law is commonly used to prove liability when the dog did not "bite" the person but injured the person by, for example, knocking a person over. This law is also used in cases where a domestic animal other than a dog caused harm to a person.
Drake v. Dean (1993) 15Cal.App.4th 915, 921
"Any propensity on the part of a domestic animal, which is likely to cause injury ...is a dangerous or vicious propensity..."
"A possessor of a domestic animal is liable (no matter how careful he or she was to prevent the harm) if he or she "knows or has reason to know" of the animal's "dangerous propensities abnormal to its class."
Restatement Second of Torts, Section 509.
This law is commonly used to prove liability when the dog did not "bite" the person or domestic animal other than a dog was involved.
“[N]egligence may be predicated on the characteristics of the animal which, although not abnormal to its class, create a foreseeable risk of harm. As to those characteristics, the owner has a duty to anticipate the harm and to exercise ordinary care to prevent the harm.”
Drake v. Dean (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 915,929
Typical defenses that the dog owner may are trespassing, comparative negligence and assumption of the risk.
Provoking the dog is a commonly asserted defense but is, legally, difficult to establish.
If you have been the victim of
a dog bite or dog attack, contact
If you have been the victim of a dog bite or dog attack, contact Matthew B. Tozer.