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Dog Attacks in Maine

Spin Papa dog MGD©.jpgUnder Under section 3952 of Title 7 of the Maine Revised Statutes, anyone who owns or keeps a dangerous dog can be fined between $250 and $1,000. If a dangerous dog hurts you, you may be able to bring a lawsuit for negligence and reimbursement for injuries under section 3961. In Maine, when a dog injures someone who is partly at fault for the injury, the damages will not be reduced unless the court determines the plaintiff’s fault for the attack exceeds the fault of the dog owner.

Maine is a strict liability state for dog bite and dog attack cases. When an injury happens on a dog owner’s property, a plaintiff must show that the owner was negligent. When the injury does not occur on the owner’s property, a plaintiff does not need to show negligence.

In a 2013 case, Fields v. Hayden, a woman who had been attacked by a dog appealed from a summary judgment in favor of the landlords of the dog’s owners. The woman alleged that the attacks occurred because the landlords were negligent. The case arose when the defendant landlords leased a single family home to a couple, the Perrys. The lease provided that the Perrys were allowed to have pets in the home, but that they would be responsible for property or other damage caused by the pets. Their dog allegedly attacked the plaintiff on three occasions.

In the summer of 2009, the Perrys’ dog got out of his restraint and jumped on the plaintiff and her dog, who were passing by. The woman reported the incident to the defendant landlords. The landlords asked their tenants to keep their dog leashed when he was outside and suggested that the plaintiff not walk in front of the leased premises.

Later, the plaintiff was again walking her dog in front of the Perrys’ leased property. The Perrys’ dog pulled out of its leash and barked at the plaintiff and her dog. After this incident the dog was returned to local animal control officers, who decided to evaluate whether the dog was dangerous. All parties waited for the results of this evaluation.

While the dog was being evaluated, it got out of its collar and went onto the plaintiff’s property. It growled and jumped on the plaintiff and her dog. However, the animal control officers found that the dog was not dangerous and did not need to be removed from the Perrys home. Two weeks later, one of the landlords sent a letter to the plaintiff and told her that the Perrys had agreed to get their dog neutered, take him to dog training, build a pen on the premises, and construct a fence that would keep him from seeing who was passing on the street.

The plaintiff sued the landlords, claiming personal and emotional injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, permanent injuries, and pain and suffering. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the landlords.

On appeal, the plaintiff contended that there was a genuine dispute about whether the landlords had control over their tenants’ dog or knew the dog had an injurious propensity. The appellate court ruled that a person owes a duty of care to protect another person from an unreasonable risk of harm created by the foreseeable actions of a dog only if the dog is in the person’s possession or under the person’s control.

The court concluded that there was no genuine dispute about whether the landlords had control of their tenants’ dog. The tenants owned and possessed the dog, and the rental agreement did not authorize the landlords to control the dog. It shifted liability for damage and disturbance onto the tenants. The Court also held that the actions taken by the landlords after each of the three episodes did not amount to possession or control of the dog.

If you are hurt because of an animal attack, you should consult a Maine personal injury attorney about filing a claim. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC at (888) 596-1099 or through our website today.

More Blog Posts:

Avoiding Fatal Road Accidents in Maine, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, May 26, 2014
Motorcycling Risks to Older Bikers in Maine, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 10, 2014
Photo Credit: Morguefile, MGDboston

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