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

Answers:

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

Answered 8 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.


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