In Michigan, when a dog bites a person, the person must sue the owner of the dog within three years from the date of the dog bite under MCL 600.5805(10). Proper plaintiffs would include:
· Person the dog bit and injured, as well as their spouse, child, or parent;
· Personal representative of the person killed in a dog attack, who would be a stand-in for the deceased and could recover on behalf of the dead person’s estate.
The proper defendant in a dog bite case includes:
1) the “registered owner” of the dog, or person who has represented him or herself to be the “owner”;
2) the “keeper,” or the “temporary caretaker” of the dog.
The jury will determine the fact question of whether the defendant having possession of the dog rises to “keeper” status and is usually defined as exercising the type of control over the dog that the owner would exert.
Three common potential causes of action for dog bite cases include:
1) The dog bite statutory action, applying to an owner of a dog
The good news in these cases is that generally if a dog bites a plaintiff, the plaintiff must only prove these facts:
· The dog bit the plaintiff and the plaintiff was injured as a result;
· The plaintiff did not provoke the bite, typically a fact question for your jury;
· The defendant owned the dog; and
· The plaintiff was lawfully at the location where the dog bite occurred.
2) Common law strict liability action against the dog owner and “keeper”
When the dog bite occurs while the dog is under the control of an owner or a “keeper,” who knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities, the plaintiff must prove in addition to the facts listed above.
3) Common law negligence
The same facts as listed under number 1 above plus that the owner or “possessor,” or temporary caretaker of the dog had the dog long enough to know of the dog’s dangerous propensities, breached a duty to the plaintiff of controlling the dog, and therefore was negligent.
More good news for Michigan victims related to defense of dog bite cases:
· Provoking the dog, an issue the jury will decide, is the only defense under a statutory claim
· Reacting to a dog’s viciousness does not constitute provocation under the statute.
If you or someone you know has been attcked by a dog, click here for a prior article I authored on how to treat bite injuries.
Mr. Smith has practiced as a trial attorney since graduating Notre Dame Law School in 1992. He has litigated cases across the country including cases from Ventura County, California to Middlesex County, New Jersey. He practices in both State and Federal courts.