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Karnas Law Firm

Dog Bites in Arizona: A Strict Liability Tort

It is common rhetoric that dogs are “man’s best friend”. Despite this adage, dogs occasionally bite adults and children. What happens if you are bitten by a dog and injured? For example, what if the dog had never bitten anyone before? Is the owner still liable if he or she had no reason to believe the dog had a propensity to bite? This blog post answers that question.  

In Arizona, dog bites are “strict liability torts”. This means an adult or child bitten by a dog almost always has the right to pursue damages from the dog’s owner for any injuries. The Arizona legislature codified this rule with A.R.S. section 11-1025. Specifically:

“The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.” 

(A.R.S. section 11-1025)

This wasn’t always the rule. At common law, an injured person had to prove that the dog owner knew or should have known that the dog had dangerous propensities. (Spirlong v. Browne (2014) 236 Ariz. 146.)  This rule has been discarded. Now, a dog’s owner is liable even if the owner exercised the utmost care to prevent the harm. (Id.) 

However, there is an exception if a person is injured by a dog while trespassing on the property of another. As discussed, the statute only protects those “lawfully” on a private place. Accordingly, if a person trespasses onto the property of another, the dog’s owner may not be liable for injuries. The definition of “trespasser” may be found on our previous blog post found here [Insert URL for Blog Post #4]. Further, although property owners often owe a heightened duty of care to trespassing children under the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine, this duty does not extend to child trespassers bitten by a dog. (Hartsock v. Bandhauer (1988) 158 Ariz. 591.) Accordingly, a child trespasser will likely not have a cause of action against the dog owner for injuries the child sustains while the child is trespassing.  

Ultimately, if you or your child was injured by a dog while in a public place or lawfully on the property of another, you likely have a claim against the dog’s owner for the injuries. The attorneys at Karnas Law have years of experience litigating cases on behalf of adults and children who have suffered a dog bite injury. Contact Karnas law for your free consultation today. 

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