Am I responsible for my dogs running at large, even though the only reason they were “at large” is due to my home being burglarized?

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Am I responsible for my dogs running at large, even though the only reason they were “at large” is due to my home being burglarized?

My neighbor claims to have been bitten but hit the dog with a baseball bat. In court, I saw the picture of her leg and there is no evidence of a bite – no marks at all.

Asked on February 7, 2013 under Personal Injury, Michigan


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a dog owner, you are liable for negligence for injury caused by the dog.  If this is not the first incident of a dog bite, you would also be liable for strict liability.

Negligence is the failure to exercise due care (that degree of care that a reasonable dog owner would have exercised under the same or similar circumstances to prevent foreseeable harm).  To prove negligence, your neighbor has to prove duty (of due care mentioned above), breach of duty (failure to exercise due care), actual cause, proximate cause, and damages.

Actual cause means but for the dog would she have been injured?  If the answer is no, which appears to be the case, actual cause has been established.

Proximate cause means are there any unforeseeable, intervening acts which would relieve you of liability?  If you can argue that the burglary was an unforeseeable, intervening act, you can argue that you are not liable.  This is definitely an argument for you to raise.  Whether or not a burglary resulting in the release of the dogs was foreseeable or unforeseeable will determine whether or not you are liable for your neighbor's injuries.

You also said that the picture did not show any injury.  Did your neighbor receive any medical treatment for the alleged dog bite?  If your neighbor received medical treatment, there will be medical bills and medical reports.  If there aren't any medical bills and medical reports, this will strengthen your case in challenging her claim.

If you are also being sued for strict liability, strict liability means you are liable whether or not due care was exercised.  Strict liability would be applicable only if this was not the first incident of the dog biting someone.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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