DOG OWNER RESPONSIBLE FOR INJURY CAUSED BY DOG EVEN IF IT DID NOT BITE
In Minnesota, the law holds a dog owner strictly liable for ANY injury caused by the dog. Minnesota Statute § 347.22 provides that 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. This means that the law not only protects against a dog bite, but also against ANY situation where a person is injured because of a dog. Our attorneys have successfully represented many people injured by a dog in MN who were not bitten or attacked. For example, we have represented many people injured by a dog that were pushed down stairs, knocked off a bicycle, tripped while running, and many other situations where there was no direct attack or dog bite.
Of course, the dog must still be the actual cause of the injury for the dog owner to be liable. We have taken calls about many situations where a dog contributes to a person being injured but is not really the cause of the injury. For example, there was a case where a puppy in the back seat of a car distracted the driver, who then ran over a pedestrian. The statute does not apply in that situation because the puppy’s actions were not directed to the pedestrian and the negligence of the driver was an intermediate cause. Likewise, when a driver swerved to avoid a dog loose on the street and hit a pedestrian, the dog’s owner might not be held legally responsible. A court dismissed a case where a dog was harnessed to a sled and a person was injured when he fell off the sled because the dog pulled the sled into a downed tree; the dog’s behavior of jumping over the downed tree would have been harmless if the dog was not harnessed to the sled.
The MN “injury caused by a dog” statute requires some sort of affirmative conduct by the dog that “proximately causes” the injury for the owner to be responsible. Determining proximate cause requires an intensely fact specific inquiry. Proximate cause is rarely a disputed issue under the statute because the statutory phrase “attacks or injures” contemplates action by a dog that directly and immediately produces injury to the person the dog attacks or injures. However, on occasion proximate cause will be disputed under the statute, e.g. where one dog attacks another dog and a person is injured either by the attack itself, or when the person tries to stop the attack and protect his own dog in such a way as to break the chain of causation.
If you have been injured by a dog or because of a dog in Minnesota you are welcome to call us for a free consultation. A lawyer from our office will discuss your case with you and advise you of your rights. We will investigate the case for you and make sure you receive fair and complete compensation from the dog owner’s insurance, including getting your medical bills paid and reimbursement of your lost wages, plus additional compensation for your pain and suffering and any scarring.