Dog Bites

Are you in need of a Minneapolis dog bite lawyer? Minnesota places liability upon an owner or keeper of a dog who attacks or injures a person. It has been referenced by the Courts as the dog owners liability statute.

Specifically, Minnesota Statute Section 347.22 provides:

If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained. The term “owner” includes any person harboring or keeping a dog but the owner shall be primarily liable. The term “dog” includes both male and female of the crime species.

Minnesota Courts have held that liability under this Statute is absolute. In other words, it is a strict liability statute.

It is important to note that liability based upon the above Statute is not limited to dog bites. It specifically references attacks of injuries. The Minnesota Supreme Court originally analyzed the phrase “attacks or injures” in Lewellin v. Huber, 465 N.W.2d 52 (Minn. 1991). Citing Lewellin, the Court reiterated their analysis in Anderson v. Christopherson, 816 N.W.2d 626, 630-31 (Minn. 2012):

We discussed the reach of the phrase “attacks or injures” extensively in Lewellin. See id. at 64–66. A dog “attacks” when it ” ‘move[s] against with more or less violent intent, implying aggressiveness in any sense and the initiative in the onset.’ ” Id. at 64 (quoting Webster’s Third New Int’l Dictionary 140 (1971)). An attack includes dog bites. Id. The phrase “injures” in the statute covers “a dog’s affirmative but nonattacking behavior which injures a person who is immediately implicated by such nonhostile behavior.” Id. We gave two non-exclusive examples of nonattacking dog behavior encompassed by the statute: “when a dog exuberantly jumps upon or unintentionally runs into a person and injures that person.” Id. We went on to explain: “When a dog attacks a person without provocation, there is no attenuated chain of causation between the attack and the injury. The cause of the injury sustained is itself the gist of the statutory wrong.

Similarly, it is intended that there be no attenuated chain of causation when the dog ‘injures’ a person.” Id. With respect to causation under the statute, the “phrase ‘attacks or injures’ contemplates action by a dog that directly and immediately produces injury to the person the dog attacks or injures.” Id. at 65.

While liability is absolute, the ultimate issue of whether or not the dog directly and immediately produced injury is a question of fact for a jury. Anderson v. Christopherson, 816 N.W.2d 626 (Minn. 2012).

Please be advised that Section 347.22 is not an exclusive remedy for attacks or injuries caused by dogs. For example, liability can be established under a common law negligence theory.

To discuss a potential claim against a dog owner or keeper for an attack or injury suffered, please contact a dog bite lawyer at Beedem Law for free consultation.