What are my options if I being sued because my dog nipped someone?

A friend came in to my house and sustained a small bite from my dog. She was antagonizing the dog and he didn’t like it. It was a small red mark, no blood. We put some cream on it and she left several hours later. Now I have received bills in excess of $650 for 2 nurse practioner visits, 4 chiropractor visits and 2 visits to a therapist for the PTSD this caused.

Asked on June 13, 2014 under Personal Injury, Missouri


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Missouri imposes strict liability on dog owners for dog bites, whether or not their dogs ever bit anyone in the past. However, provocation is a defense. The provocation doctrine states that a dog bite is justified under certain circumstances, so that neither the dog nor the owner, harborer or keeper of the dog may be held responsible civilly or criminally. The facts will determine justification. Generally, actions of the person bitten which would have triggered the doctrine of self-defense if the dog were a person are usually considered to be provocation. Like hitting a dog and causing it to feel pain usually constitutes provocation. The dog's reaction to the act of provocation, however, cannot be grossly out of proportion to the provocative act itself. Wade v. Rich (Ill. Ct. App. 1993), 618 N.E.2d 1314. I would speak with a lawyer. ASAP.

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