Michigan is a strict liability state.
- Litigation forms and other materials for attorneys
- If your case involves injury to a dog, see When a Dog Is Injured or Killed
Michigan holds the owner of a dog strictly liable for dog bites to a human being that were not provoked, provided that if the incident happened upon the dog owner's property the victim was not a trespasser or there to do something unlawful or criminal. Liability also can be based upon scienter, negligence, negligence per se and other grounds such as battery. (See Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA.)
The dog bite statute, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann., sec. 287.351, is as follows:
287.351 Person bitten by dog; liability of owner.
Sec. 1. (1) If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's knowledge of such viciousness.
(2) A person is lawfully on the private property of the owner of the dog within the meaning of this act if the person is on the owner's property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or if the person is on the owner's property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property unless said person has gained lawful entry upon the premises for the purpose of an unlawful or criminal act.
Dog owner s are limited to the defenses enumerated in the statute, namely that the plaintiff provoked the dog or the plaintiff was a trespasser at the time of the incident. Nicholes v. Lorenz (Mich. 1976), 237 N.W.2d 468.
Landlords can be held liable for bites inflicted by dogs belonging to tenants. In Szkodzinski v. Griffin, 171 Mich. App. 711, 431 N.W.2d 51 (1988), the 6-year-old plaintiff was bitten when a vicious dog owned by the defendant's residential tenant attacked him when he entered the premises to retrieve his ball. The court, citing Strunk v. Zoltanki, supra, 62 N.Y.2d 572, 468 N.E.2d 13, 479 N.Y.S.2d 175, stated that the defendant landlord could be held liable if he knew of the dog's vicious nature.