Minnesota’s Dog Bite Laws
Minnesota Law says: 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 of the dog shall be primarily liable. (Thus, a person other than the owner of the dog, if keeping or harboring the dog, is also held liable under the statute.)
• Statute applied in manner most favorable to the injured person.
Minn. Stat. § 347.22 has been interpreted as a strict liability statute. This means that liability is absolute and any comparative fault on the part of the injured person cannot be taken into consideration. Further, is makes no difference that the dog owner may have used reasonable care, negligence is beside the point. Past good behavior of the dog is also irrelevant. Essentially, the only defenses available to the dog owner or the person harboring or keeping the dog are that the injured person provoked the dog or was trespassing at the time the dog bite occurred. Lewellin v. Huber, 465 N.W.2d 62 (Minn. 1991); Seim v. Garavalia, 306 N.W.2d 806 (Minn. 1981).
• Statute does not require a vicious attack or even physical contact between the dog and the injured person.
Minn. Stat. § 347.22 mandates that the owner of a dog is liable for any injury that is directly caused by the dog. Liability is triggered when a dog, even without the intent to attack, directly causes injury to a person. The Minnesota Court of Appeals has held a dog owner liable under the statute when the dog bumped into the back of a person’s legs causing the person to fall and break his wrist. The Court found that the statute applies even where the dog did not attack, but merely bumped into, the person. Boitz v. Preblich, 405 N.W.2d 907 (Minn. App. 1987). The Minnesota Court of Appeals has also held a dog owner liable under the statute when the dog ran at a person, causing him to attempt to dismount his bicycle, fall, and tear his rotator cuff. The Court found that the statute applies even where there is no physical contact between the dog and the injured person. Morris v. Weatherly, 488 N.W.2d 508 (Minn. App. 1992). The Minnesota Supreme Court specifically addressed application of the statute when a dog injures a person as opposed to attacks a person. The Court held that the intent of the statute is to cover “when a dog exuberantly jumps on or intentionally runs into a person and injures that person.” Lewellin v. Huber, 465 N.W.2d 62 (Minn. 1991). Minnesota courts have applied the statute broadly in favor of any person who sustains injury as a direct result of a dog.
In Minnesota, there is a six-year statute of limitations for dog bite claims, and the statute of limitations may be extended if a minor is injured. However, it is crucial that you take action as soon as possible in order to preserve evidence, contact witnesses, and ensure that your rights are protected.
Damages that May Be Recovered:
• Medical expenses
• Compensation for:
-Scarring and disfigurement
-Pain and suffering
• Lost Wages
• Other damages
• Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
• If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, stay still, do not run or scream.
• Do not allow children to play with a dog unsupervised.
• Do not disturb a dog while it is sleeping or eating.
• Before petting a dog, ask the owner of the dog for permission.
• Before petting a dog, let the dog see and sniff your hand.
If You Are Bitten by a Dog:
• If the dog owner is present, get his or her contact information, request proof of rabies vaccination, and ask for the owner’s veterinarian’s contact information.
• Clean the wound with soap and water.
• Consult a physician immediately.