In Minnesota, anyone who owns a dog or “harbors and keeps” a dog is liable if the dog bites someone or injures them in another way, like pushing them down. Minnesota law provides for “strict liability” of dog owners in a wide variety of circumstances.
Minnesota Statute, Section 347.22: Damages, owner liable.
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 canine species.
As long as the requirements of the statute are met, the dog owner is responsible if their dog injures someone. The owner does not even have to be present when the injury occurs.
There are very few defenses available to the dog owner when a dog injures someone. The two defenses we see most are provocation and trespassing. If a person provokes the dog, the owner may not be held responsible. Provocation may include things like taking food from the dog, hitting or kicking the dog, or grabbing his ears. Likewise, if the person is bitten while they are trespassing, the owner may not be responsible. For example, if a child puts their hand over the fence in a private yard to pet the dog, the owner may claim they were trespassing and, thus, escape liability.
Additionally, a dog owner can be held responsible if their negligence, or lack of ordinary care, causes or contributes to the dog injuring someone. As you can see, Minnesota law related to dog bites is very favorable to the victims.
With very limited exceptions, if a dog bites someone, the owner is responsible.
This post was created by Katherine A. Brown Holmen, a personal injury attorney at Dudley and Smith, P.A. If you have questions about a dog bite or other issues involving injuries, please contact Katherine at 651-291-1717 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ms. Holmen has practiced personal injury law for over 20 years and would be happy discuss the intricacies of this cause of action with you. Dudley and Smith, P.A. is a full service law firm with offices in St. Paul, Bloomington, Burnsville, Chanhassen, White Bear Lake, and Woodbury.
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