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Old 23 May 2007, 06:20 PM
Posts: n/a

It's not "more" or "less" liability - in a matter like this, being liable is like being pregnant - you are or you aren't. forceflow15 is correct in referring to the doctrine of scienter. If an owner knows of a dog's tendency to bite, the owner is liable if the dog bites someone. If the owner has no knowledge (and is not being "wilfully blind") then s/he is not liable. I note that this is similar to the Talmudic doctrine cited by Don Enrico.

I'm not aware of any cases where a "Beware of Dog" sign has been held to constitute scienter. However, I haven't done any research on this point. As a plaintiff's lawyer, which I often am, I would certainly ask questions about the owner's knowledge and reasons for putting up the "Beware of Dog" sign, but I doubt that I would advance it as an argument, without some other significant factors.

The "every dog gets one bite" doctrine cited by Jay Templeflows from the scienter concept. However, it's not absolute. If an owner knows or ought to know that his/her dog is vicious, even if it's never bitten anybody before, s/he will be liable if it does bite. An example would be a guard dog. If you buy a guard dog and don't take proper precautions, you'll be liable if it bites someone.

[hijack]A lawyer of my distant acquaintance had a dog bite case very early in her career in small claims court. The dog had bitten a young girl's arm. The defendant took the stand and testified that his dog was not vicious and had never bitten anybody nor shown signs of aggression. Then he said "Besides, it couldn't have been my dog. My dog wouldn't have bitten her arm - it would have ripped her face off!" Judgment was for the plaintiff.[/hijack]

Last edited by Grendel; 23 May 2007 at 06:21 PM. Reason: to close the hijack
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