Dog Bites & Attacks
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Michigan Dog Bite Laws

In Michigan, the law recognizes three potential causes of action arising out of a dog attack incident:

  1. Statutory Strict Liability
  2. Common Law Strict Liability
  3. Common Law Negligence (including statutory and ordinance violations)

Michigan Statutory Strict Liability Dog Bite Law

Michigan has enacted statutory strict liability under what is commonly referred to as the dog-bite statute. Under this law, if a dog bites a person, without provocation, while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog is liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.

This means that if someone is bitten while lawfully on public or private property, the owner of the dog is automatically liable for any injury or damage the dog causes as long as the dog was not provoked. In addition, the law makes clear that people considered lawfully on the private property of the owner includes social guests, friends, family members, contractors, postal employees, utility company workers, newspaper carriers, and others who were invited onto the property for a business or social purpose. 


Michigan Common Law Strict Liability Dog Bite Law

A cause of action for common law strict liability attaches for harm done by a dog or domestic animal where three elements are present:

  1. one is the owner or possessor of the animal;
  2. one knew or should have known of the animal's abnormal dangerous propensities;
  3. harm results from the dangerous propensity that was known or should have been known. 

This means that if someone owns or harbors a vicious dog and a person is harmed as a result of the dog's vicious behavior, then the owner or keeper of the dog will be liable.


Michigan Common Law Negligence Dog Bite Law

A cause of action under common law negligence is available without regard to whether the owner, keeper, or possessor had knowledge of the dog's dangerous propensities if that person was negligent in failing to prevent foreseeable harm and that negligence resulted in an injury. 

This means that the dog or animal owner may be liable if the injury occurred because the dog owner was unreasonably careless in controlling the dog.  This can include not putting a leash on the dog, the lack of a proper sign in warning citizens of a vicious dog, and simply not paying attention to the actions of the dog. 

Many times, the owner is automatically liable for failing to properly have the dog restrained or on a leash under city ordinances and rules.  This might include in a public park or just somewhere in the neighborhood.  Dog owners are also responsible for attacks in these places. Some people believe that the one-bite rule is the law in Michigan.  This rule means that the owner is not liable or responsible if the dog had never bitten anyone before your incident.  This law does not exist in Michigan and dog owners are not entitled to a free bite.

Lawrence J. Buckfire
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