Dog Bites and Injuries: Dog Owners liable for Injuries Caused by Dog, not just Bites or Vicious Attacks

Minnesota Statute § 347.22 mandates that an owner is liable to the full amount of the injury sustained if a dog injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be.  Case law makes it clear that application of the statute is not limited to vicious attacks.  The statute clearly applies to trigger liability when a dog, even without the intent to attack or be vicious, directly causes injury to someone.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals in Boitz v. Preblich, 405 N.W.2d 907 (Minn. App. 1987) found that the statute applied when the defendant’s thirty pound Springer Spaniel ran out of the door and down a footpath as the plaintiff was walking.  The dog “bumped into the back of his legs” and the plaintiff fell down breaking his wrist.  The Court found that the statute applied even where the dog just bumped into the plaintiff.  Again the Court of Appeals demonstrated the breadth of the statute in Morris v. Weatherly, 488 N.W.2d 508 (Minn. App. 1992) when they found that the statute applied when a dog ran at the plaintiff causing him to attempt to dismount off of his bike and resulting in his falling to the ground and tearing his rotator cuff.  The Court of Appeals in Morris found the statute applied even though there was no physical contact between the dog and the plaintiff.  Finally, in Lewellin, on behalf of heirs of Lewellin v. Huber, 645 N.W.2d 62 (Minn. 1991) the Minnesota Supreme Court addressed application of the statute when a dog “injures” someone as opposed to “attacks” them.  The Minnesota Supreme Court said that the intent of the legislation would cover “when a dog exuberantly jumps upon or unintentionally runs into a person and injures that person”.  The case law addressing the application of Minn. Stat. § 347.22 makes it clear that the dog’s owners in this case would be liable.

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