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Michigan Dog Bite Laws, Protections, & Articles

A dog owner will not be liable if it can be shown that the bite victim somehow provoked the dog. There is no hard and fast rule as to what constitutes provocation; it should be judged on a case by case basis, which means it should be decided by a jury, at time of trial, and not by a judge on a Motion for Dismissal (aka Motion for Summary Disposition; see Civil Court Procedure page)
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The term "common-law" merely refers to the body of law that has developed over time, from accumulating appellate court cases, dealing with specific subjects. Generally speaking, when a cases is appealed to a higher court, that higher court's ruling can have the force of law, because that higher court is interpreting what they consider to be the then current state of the law, on any particular subject. The term "common-law negligence" merely refers to the body of law that has developed over time, on the specific subject of negligence, its elements and defenses.
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Non-ownership of the dog, is a defense only to the strict liability provisions of MCLA §287.351. For example, if you are babysitting a dog, while its owner is out-of-town, and (heaven forbid) the dog attacks someone on your property, you cannot be sued under the strict liability provisions of the statute, nor can you sue the dog-sitter under the statute. However, you can sue and be sued, under a theory of common-law negligence, which is preserved in Michigan law under MCLA §287.288.
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  1. Provocation.
  2. Trespassing.
  3. Initial lawful entry onto property, followed by proof of victim's criminal/unlawful purpose for being on the property.
  4. No damages. Just getting bitten, does not create a right to sue, or to make a claim. There must be a showing of damage to the bite victim.
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The value of a dog bite depends on:
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Ultimately, you will not need to know; that is what you are hiring me to know. It is important though, for you to know that you still have a claim against a dog-sitter, e.g., where the dog-sitter is the one with assets and/or insurance, and the dog owner does not. Maybe you do not want to press a claim against the owner, for whatever reason, but you feel that the dog-sitter is the greater threat.
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We have all heard folks say that certain breeds of dogs are just, by virtue of their breed, dangerous animals; e.g., pit bulls. This may be untrue, and the dog's violent tendencies may be a function of poor stewardship/management by the dog owner. I am not knowledgeable enough to offer an opinion, but there are various lists that point to various breeds as being more dangerous than others. I offer links to a couple here, without opinion as to their accuracy:
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Notice that the Michigan statute, MCLA §287.351, relieves the dog owner of liability, where the dog bite victim is not on the property lawfully. The law recognizes that many people keep dogs, not just as loving pet-members of the family, but also for the security and protectiveness they bring to the household. Dogs are "pack" animals, and they instinctively protect their "packs", which in this situation, refers to the households in which they live.
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Under Michigan law, specifically MCLA §600.2956, liability is "several only", and is not "joint". What that means is that a defendant cannot be held liable for anything greater than their percentage contribution of negligence.
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Negligence of the bite victim is greater than 50%

Under Michigan's negligence rules, if a jury believes that a sober injury victim (in any type of case, be it an auto accident case, a premises liability/slip and fall case, or anything else), is more than 50% the cause of their own injuries, the jury is prohibited from awarding that person any monetary award. See MCLA §600.2959... Continue reading.

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