In Arizona, the dog bite law is a strict liability law. This means that even if a dog has no prior history of biting and/or the owner has no knowledge of the dog’s history of aggression, the owner is still liable for any injuries caused by the dog regardless of where the attack occurred. Let’s look at a few examples.
A. John is walking his dog, Milo, at the local park. Jenny, a jogger at the park, is running toward John and Milo when Milo goes bezerk, causes John to lose his grip on the leash, and attacks and bites Jenny in the leg. Milo is normally a sweet dog, even a bit lazy, so this takes John by surprise. Is John liable for the attack?
According to Arizona law, yes. When Milo attacks a person in a public place, John is liable even though Milo is normally not an aggressive dog.
B. John is having a backyard barbeque. He invites several of his co-workers, including Bill. Milo is enjoying the attention from the partygoers. Bill reaches for a frisbee on the ground, but Milo snaps and bites Bill so hard that he mangles a few fingers. Is John liable for the injuries?
Yes. Bill is lawfully on John’s private property, so John is liable when Milo injures Bill.
C. Milo is running and playing in his backyard and enjoying the summer sun. An unknown man climbs the fence of Milo’s yard and enters the property. Ever the protective guardian, Milo charges the man and bites into his calf muscle. Is John liable for the injuries?
John is likely not liable for the injuries caused by Milo because the trespasser is unlawfully on John’s property.
D. John and Milo are at a dog park. There are other families with their dogs. A young teen was petting Milo when she decides to pull harshly on Milo’s ears. Milo shrieks in pain and bites the teen. Is John liable for the injury?
Likely not. The court would likely find that Milo responded to reasonable provocation. In other words, if a victim of a dog bite provoked the dog, the owner is not liable for the resulting bite.
In general, Arizona assigns strict liability to the dog owner, but there are a few exceptions when a dog owner is not liable. Contact our personal injury attorney in Phoenix for expert guidance.