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Posted on Sunday, July 27, 2008
I ran across a great article about California dog bites and wanted to give Mike Ehline a shout out by re-printing it here below as follows: Redondo Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Santa Monica, and other Orange County and Los Angeles cities all have one thing in common when it comes to dog bites. Dog bite California Style is the rule of law. The dog bite law in California takes precedence over the “one bite rule,” that is used in some other states. The “first bite rule,” and “one free bite rule” are all different names for the same legal doctrine that is used in determining if the owner of a dog or other domestic animal can be held liable for injuries that the animal may have caused. This common law protected the dog owner from civil liability if his animal had never bitten anyone before. That is why it is called the “one free bite rule”.
But it was repeatedly argued in court that the name “one bite rule” or “first bite free rule” is wrongly named because when an injury was suffered, the rule didn’t only apply to a dog bite but to other types of injuries as well. It also did not require liability if the owner had prior knowledge the dog had the propensity to bite. But once a dog had bitten the first time, any bites after that, the owner was to be held strictly liable. This actually worked against the owner if the victim was antagonizing the animal or if the dog bit someone while protecting the property or person of the owner. The owner was still liable. Eighteen states in the U.S. use the “one bite rule”. The others have modified dog bite rules.
California Civil Code section 3342 (part a), states the following:
3342. (a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.
The above portion of California Civil Code section 3342 is only part of what is known as California’s dog bite rule. The Civil Code makes dog bite California style a liability or Knowledge “scienter” Rule. This “scienter” rule makes the owner liable for any injuries caused by a dog whether he has prior knowledge that the dog might bite or not. Simply stated, the owner is liable just because he owns the dog and is legally responsible for what it does. Some owner protections do apply in certain circumstances however, such as if the dog-bite victim was trespassing or not or the dog was provoked.
In all dog bite cases, consulting a California Dog Bite lawyer is highly recommended.