Dog Bite Liability in California

In California, owners of dogs are statutorily strictly liable for any injuries their dog causes. This dog bite statute makes the owner of the dog strictly liable for any dog bite from the moment the ownership begins, provided that the victim was not trespassing, provoking the dog, injured by his employer’s dog while on the job, or performing a paid service involving dog. The victim is not required to prove negligence.

dogbite-attorneyIn California, a victim of a dog bite only needs to show that: the dog was owned by the defendant; the bite took place on public property or while the victim was lawfully on private property; the victim was actually bitten by the dog; and the victim was injured by the dog.

This is what the text of the statute looks like:

California Civil Code section 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.

(b) Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

(1) In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity.

(2) In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.

(3) In the execution of a warrant.

(4) In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.

(d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or military work enumerated in subdivision (b).

There are several defenses under the California statute where the dog owner may not be liable. California courts have denied recovery to victims who provoked the dog, negligently caused the attack, or assumed the risk of dog attack.

If you or your loved one has been the victim of a dog bite, please call the attorneys at Adams & Corzine, as we can help you.  Hiring an experienced attorney is important to help you sort out the complexities of a dog bite case.  Please call our office today at 916-93-3900 for a free legal consultation.

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