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Court Discusses Liability Under Massachusetts’ Dog Bite Law

Massachusetts, like many states, has a “dog bite” law that holds people strictly liable for any injuries their dogs cause innocent people to suffer. While the dog bite law does not require an injured party to establish negligence to recover damages, it does require proof of other elements, like ownership. In a recent opinion, a Massachusetts court analyzed whether a property owner could be held liable under the dog bite law for harm caused by one of its tenant’s dogs. If you suffered injuries due to a dog bite, you should speak to a trusted Massachusetts personal injury lawyer to assess what damages you may be owed.

The Facts Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Harm

Allegedly, the plaintiff rode his bicycle past a residential rental property that the defendant owned. The tenant that lived at the property owned a dog that broke loose and chased the plaintiff. It then bit him, causing him to fall off his bike and suffer injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that pursuant to the dog bite law, he was strictly liable for the plaintiff’s harm. The parties engaged in discovery, after which the defendant moved for via summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims. The court ruled in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Liability Under the Dog Bite Law

The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling. It explained that despite the plaintiff’s arguments to the contrary, the dog bite law did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. Specifically, the defendant was not the dog’s owner or keeper, and therefore, could not be deemed strictly liable for the harm caused by the dog under the statute.

The court further explained that to recover damages under a negligence claim, the plaintiff needed to establish that the defendant had a duty to exercise reasonable care, a breach of the duty by the defendant and that the defendant’s breach caused the plaintiff’s harm. The court explained, though, that landowners generally do not have a duty to prevent parties from suffering harm due to dangerous or illegal acts of other parties. The court elaborated that there was no case law issued by the Massachusetts courts holding that a landlord had a duty to prevent a third party from suffering harm due to a tenant’s dog, and it declined to create such a duty in the present case. As such, it affirmed the trial court’s ruling.

Meet with a Knowledgeable Massachusetts Attorney

Many dogs are friendly, but even the friendliest dogs can suddenly attack people. Dog bites can cause serious trauma, and dog owners should be held accountable for any harm caused by their pets. If you were hurt by a dog bite, you should meet with a lawyer to determine what damages you may be owed. The Cape Cod dog bite lawyers of The Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and help you to seek the maximum compensation recoverable under the law. You can reach us through our form online or at 888-262-6664 to set up a conference.



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