Dog Bite? Broken Skin Not Required For Strict Liability
Under California law, if a dog bites you its owner is strictly liable for your injuries. California’s dog bite statute imposes 100% liability upon a dog’s owner when the dog bites a person in a public place or lawfully in a private place. For the statute and thereby strict liability to apply the dog must have bitten the person. Jumping or pawing a person is not enough. However, sometimes a dog bites a person but does not break the skin. When this happens, can a person still sue under California’s dog bite statute and hold the dog owner strictly liable for their injuries?
Yes. Broken Skin Is Not Required
All that is required is that the dog bite you or your loved one. A certain type of resulting injury is not required to sue under California’s dog bite statute. While broken skin, lacerations, and puncture wounds are the typical result of a dog bite, all that is required is that the dog grip your person with its teeth.
Example: Dog Bites Person, Does Not Break His Skin
In one California case a man volunteered to help a homeowner fix their swamp cooler mounted on a roof. Unfortunately, while the man was on a ladder to access the swamp cooler the homeowner’s large dog jumped up and grabbed the man’s thigh with its teeth, knocking the man off the ladder. Needless to say, the man suffered injury as a result of falling off the ladder. However, interestingly the man did not suffer puncture wounds, lacerations, or broken skin as a result of the dog bite. While the dog did close its teeth around the mans thigh and pants, it did not break the skin. When the man sued the homeowner under California’s dog bite statute the homeowner claimed that since the dog did not break the man’s skin it did not “bite” the man as required under California’s dog bite statute. In response, the court found that the dog did indeed bite the man, reasoning that all that is required to find a “bite” is that the dictionary definition of “bite” in fact occurred; that being a closing of teeth around something to grip. The court concluded that since the dog gripped the man’s thigh with its teeth a “bite” within the meaning of the statute did indeed occur, and the man could proceed with his suit under California’s dog bite statute.
If A Dog Grips Its Teeth Around Your Person A Dog “Bite” Has Occurred
If a dog has gripped your person with its teeth you have been bitten by a dog. If the bite occurs while you are in a public place or lawfully in a private place and causes you injury, you can sue the dog’s owner under California’s dog bite statute. A specific type of injury such as broken skin is not required to hold the dog owner strictly liable for your injury; all that is required is that you are bitten by a dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place.