Minnesota dog bite law can be complicated. Please read through the information below or contact a Minnesota dog bite lawyer to get answers to your questions.
The Minnesota dog bite statute is one of the most favorable in the nation for dog bite victims (and, conversely, one of the most unfavorable for dog owners). Although dog bite victims normally rely on the statute, where the statute does not apply, common law negligence principles can be used to support a dog bite claim. Minnesota also strictly regulates the treatment of dogs that are already known to be dangerous.
The Minnesota Dog Bite Statute
The Minnesota dog bite statute holds dog owners strictly liable for any injuries caused by their dog, even if the owner took reasonable safety precautions and even if the owner had no way of knowing that the dog was dangerous. Essentially, the owner acts as an insurer of the dog’s peaceful behavior. The “owner” doesn’t have to be the legal owner, either – anyone who keeps or “harbors” a dog is considered the owner of the dog under Minnesota dog bite law.
Moreover, Minnesota’s doctrine of comparative fault does not apply to the dog bite statute — the dog owner cannot escape liability by showing that the victim was partially at fault, as long as the victim was “acting peaceably” just prior to the attack. The statute also applies to non-bite injuries – if, for example, an exuberant dog injures a child by knocking her off a porch.
Common Law Negligence
In contrast with the relative ease of winning a dog bite lawsuit under the plaintiff-friendly dog bite statute, establishing liability under a common law negligence theory is particularly difficult in Minnesota. To win, the victim must prove that the owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous tendencies, and that the owner failed to use reasonable care in handling the dog. Normally, of course, there is no need to rely on a negligence theory, since it is so much easier for a victim to sue under the strict liability statute.
If an exception to the statute applies, however – if the victim was trespassing at the time of the attack, for example – the victim may have no other choice than to rely on a negligence theory. Negligence might also be the only option if a dog causes a non-bite injury through an attenuated chain of causation – the dog ran out in front of a car and caused it to swerve into the victim, for example.
The “Dangerous Dog” Designation
Minnesota allows a court to have a dog formally declared “potentially dangerous” or
“dangerous”, depending on its behavior. Such a designation will result in certain requirements being placed on the dog owner, such as:
- Fencing in the dog
- Placing a conspicuous warning sign on the owner’s property
- Registering the dog with animal control authorities
- Purchasing dog bite insurance or putting down a surety bond
If the dog owner fails to comply with these requirements, he can be charged with a criminal misdemeanor. If the dog attacks someone after being declared dangerous, the authorities might, depending on the circumstances, quarantine the dog or even euthanize it.
The significance of the “potentially dangerous” and “dangerous” designations from the point of view of a dog bite victim suing under a negligence theory is that these designations, or failure by the dog owner to comply with their associated restrictions, can help the victim prove that the dog owner was negligent.