When is an owner responsible for a dog bite?
In Rhode Island, there is one standard that we look at to begin the decision tree as to whether or not an owner of a dog is responsible for your injuries.
The question is, did the dog bite occur inside or outside the enclosure? The enclosure is defined as the logical border of the actual property. If the dog owner lives in an apartment inside a complex and there is a common area hallway, porch, and/or yard, inside the enclosure would be inside the owner’s apartment. Once the dog enters the hallway, anywhere thereafter, would be considered outside the enclosure.
If the dog and owner live in a single-family home, outside the enclosure is defined as outside the property line or any indication of the property line, such as a fence or hedges. If you are bit inside the enclosure, in order to pursue a case, you must show that the dog has previously bitten another person or the owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensities. If you were bit outside the enclosure, that is what we refer to as strict liability. The owner is 100% responsible for all of your damages.
In MA, dog bites are generally guided by the theory of negligence whether inside or outside the enclosure. Negligence is defined as duty, breach, causation, and damages. Duty means that the defendant owed you a duty or care as a reasonably prudent person (RPP) under the circumstances in the shoes the defendant was in. Breach means that they violated the RPP standard and put you in a position of peril, having both actual or constructive notice as well as the opportunity to cure the defect. Causation is the link between their breach of the standard of care and the injury or damages that you have suffered. That link must be reasonably foreseeable and there should not be another intervening or superseding cause that resulted in your damages. Damages are the harm that you suffered directly caused by the defendant’s breach of the standard of care. If you meet those four elements, you have shown the defendant is negligent and you have a viable personal injury case.