Alaska Dog Bite Law

A dog bite victim in Alaska can recover compensation under the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort. There is no dog bite statute, so this is a “one bite state.”

Overview

Alaska follows the one bite rule. This means a person can be held liable for a dog attack if the dog had the dangerous propensity to inflict such an injury, and the defendant knew or should have known about that propensity. See The One Bite Rule. In Hale v. O’Neill, 492 P.2d 101 (Alaska 1971), the Alaska Supreme Court referred to “the doctrine of strict liability for injuries caused by a domestic animal with known dangerous tendencies.” The court noted that “an owner of a domestic animal becomes liable, regardless of fault, for injuries caused by the animal which stem from a vicious propensity, known to the owner.” The court described the elements of such an action as being: (1) the animal’s owner knew or should have known of the animal’s “dangerous tendency,” and (2) the dangerous tendency resulted in an injury to the claimant.

Third parties, such as landowners and management companies, can also be held liable if they are aware of a dog’s dangerous propensity to inflict injury and do nothing to prevent it despite having the legal right to do so. See Alaskan Village, Inc. v. Smalley, 720 P.2d 945 (Alaska 1986), which also holds that if the defendant or its employee acted with malice or reckless indifference toward the victim’s safety, a jury can award punitive damages.

This state also imposes liability on the grounds of negligence and negligence per se. See Sinclair v. Okata, 874 F. Supp. 1051 (Dist. Court, D. Alaska 1994).

In Alaska, an injured child’s lawsuit can include a claim for medical expenses reasonably necessary to treat the dog bite. His parents are not required to bring a separate claim in their own name. See Alaskan Village, cited above.