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Dog's keepers are not liable for dog bite; strict liability is limited to "owners."

A minor, Keywan Adams was mauled by a dog that was being "looked after" while the owners of the dog were away.  His mother brought suit for his injuries.  The trial judge dismissed the claim when the plaintiff conceded that the defendants, Collette and Shelby Wooldridge, were not the owners of the dog.  The plaintiffs appealed, taking the fairly reasonable position that under Michigan statutes, a dog "owner" is defined as "every person who keeps or harbors the dog or has it in his care, and every person who permits the dog to remain on or about any premises occupied by him."

The Court of Appeals panel noted thatit was bound by a prior case in the Court of Appeals which had concluded that the above definition of "owner" did not apply to the strict liability dog bite statute.  In typical fashion, the law is written to interpret and apply broadly--but not to the benefit of injury victims.  Republican Justices have reached the same conclusion with regard to zoning laws and building codes and various other regulatory statutes.

The child's family also argued that the keepers of the dog should be liable in negligence, however, they did not provide sufficient facts in support of a claim of "scienter."  (To be held negligent, the keeper most have forewarning of the dog's dangerous propensities.)


Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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