You decide to have a gathering at your house with people you and your dog know well. Suddenly, your dog becomes spooked or threatened, and bites someone! The dog has caused the person to have a mark on their body, or worse, they require medical attention. Suddenly your party becomes the site of a lawsuit. How can you protect yourself and your dog? In Michigan, the law is very clear, and unfortunately, there is not much room for argument. Contacting a lawyer is imperative to a successful lawsuit of this nature.
The dog bite statute, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann., sec. 287.351, is as follows:
287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.
Sec. 1. (1) If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
(2) A person is lawfully on the private property of the owner of the dog within the meaning of this act if the person is on the owner’s property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or if the person is on the owner’s property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property unless said person has gained lawful entry upon the premises for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act.
Michigan’s dog bite law is a strict liability law, meaning a dog owner is usually liable for injuries caused by a dog bite regardless of any attempts by the dog’s owner to prevent harm from occurring. Accordingly, claiming that the dog has never attacked anyone, has never showed aggression, or even that the dog did not know the person well (as with postal workers or groundskeepers), will not exempt the owner from liability. This does not, however, mean that there is never a defense in a dog bite case. Strict liability applies, for example, when no provocation occurred and when the victim was lawfully on the owner’s property. Therefore, if the dog was provoked and/or the victim was a trespasser you may have a defense.
The financial consequences of a dog bite lawsuit can be considerable. If you have been sued because your dog allegedly attacked someone, contacting a Michigan dog bite attorney immediately is your best course of action.
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