Does Your Dog Bite?
Posted by Meaghan Griffin of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Apr 07, 2015 in Dog Bites
Most states have enacted dog bite statutes and other related "dog" laws that offer some guidance on these issues. Unfortunately, these laws are here for a reason: In 2014, there were 42 dog bite fatalities reported in the U.S., two of which were CT residents.
In Connecticut, there is a dog bite statute that holds the owner or keeper of a dog responsible for any injuries it caused to another person. When a claim is brought under the dog bite statute, responsibility is not determined by the defendant's actions or intent, but by his or her status as the "owner" or keeper" of the dog. http://law.justia.com/codes/connecticut/2013/title-22/chapter-435/section-22-357/ . Unless the victim was a trespasser or found to be intentionally provoking the dog, the owner or keeper will have no valid defense. This is an example of what the law calls "strict" liability: https://www.jud.ct.gov/ji/civil/.
Further investigation would have to be made in order to determine which hat the defendant wears: dog "owner" or dog "keeper". This determination must be made in cases where someone other than the dog's legal owner cares for and controls the dog. If a non-owner treats the dog as the owner of a dog ordinarily would, then the law will consider the non-owner to be the "keeper" of the dog. If Clouseau were to bring a successful claim under this statute, he would need evidence to prove that the Clerk had either been caring for or in control of the dog at the time the incident occurred. https://law.justia.com/codes/connecticut/2013/title-22/chapter-435/section-22-327/ , Falby v. Zarembski, 221 Conn. 14, 19 (1992).
But what if Clerk doesn't fit the description for owner or keeper? Luckily for people like Clouseau, Connecticut also recognizes claims that fall outside of the dog bite statute. In cases where the statute does not apply, the plaintiff will have to prove the defendant had prior knowledge of the dog's "vicious propensities". Even if the defendant did not actually know the dog was vicious, if the defendant should have known, he may be held liable. Vendrella v. Astriab Family Ltd. Partnership , 311 Conn. 301 (2014). Because the law will not presume that a non-owner is responsible, liability is not always clear.
For similar reasons, courts do not presume a person is liable based upon his or her status on the property. A landlord that is not an owner or keeper is held to the same standard as any other non-owner. As with the case against the Clerk, the plaintiff would need to prove that the landlord either had control over the dog or knew it was vicious. Auster v. Norwalk United Methodist Church , 943 A.2d 391 (Conn. 2008).
Well, until we meet again, the case is solved.