Lawyer Bites Dog: Strict Liability

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                                   Lawyer Bites Dog:  STRICT LIABILITY

Strict Liability is a tort or civil wrong where a person is liable irregardless of the care taken to avoid such harm.   A common example would be a dog bite.   If a dog or other animal causes harm, the owner is generally liable.   Pet owner A owns a dog that he knows to be aggressive around strangers.   The dog is on a leash but “A” drops he leash to light a cigarette and the dog bites a stranger.   “A” is negligence and liable because he did not demonstrate reasonable care.

What if there is no negligence?   It depends on the animal.  Generally, the owner of a wild animal, i.e., a monkey, lion or bear, is strictly liable regardless of any care taken by the owner    In addition, the owner of a tame animal is liable if he knows the animal has a “tendency”  to cause harm and the harm caused was a result of that “tendency”.   

A common defense of the dog owner is that since the dog has never bitten anyone how does its owner know it will not bite, thus, relieving the owner of having to prove there is no tendency.    Normally, this will not hold up since the dog may be abnormally feisty or has lunged at people showing the owner is unable to control his pet.

As you can see, the simple dog bite is not so simple . Legal concepts like “reasonable care” and “tendency” in addition to differing state laws, require the advice of a legal professional.


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