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Several Only Liability

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.

For example, if damages are assessed at $100,000.00 in a dog bite case, the dog owner is considered no more than 5% at fault, and the dog-sitter is found to be 95% negligent in having caused the bite injuries, but has no money, that means that of the $100,000.00 in damages supposedly awarded, only $5,000.00 of that amount will be assessed against the collectible dog owner. You may well be out of luck, in collecting the other $95,000.00 from the dog-sitter, who was primarily responsible.

While it sounds reasonable and fair to assess damages in this way, it seems neither reasonable nor fair, when the injuries are yours, or those of a loved one, and you are left uncompensated. If you feel, as I do, that leaving injuries uncompensated, and potentially shunting the costs for such injuries into tax-supported programs like Medicare or Medicaid, then please consider contacting your State Senator and/or State Representative, by simply clicking the appropriate links below:

Learn more about Michigan Dog Bite Laws & Protections.

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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