Personal injury and property damage caused by dogs is an age old problem, with centuries of established legislation. States vary on the handling of dog bite cases. Many states are “negligence” states, and many others are “strict liability” states. Massachusetts subscribes to the latter of the two.

What is Strict Liability?

Massachusetts is a “strict liability” dog bite state. This means that in the state of Massachusetts, dog owners are still liable for injuries their dogs cause even if the owner had no prior knowledge that the dog would bite or cause injury. This applies to all injuries caused by dogs. For instance, suppose you are standing on the sidewalk when a neighbor’s dog runs up and jumps on you, knocking you down and causing injury. The Massachusetts dog bite statute would apply in that instance too.

The law also applies to property damage caused by a dog, such as when a dog injures livestock, breaks a fence, or chews on things belonging to other people.

Massachusetts’ Dog Bite Statute

Stated in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 155:

If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof there of shall be upon the defendant in such action.

Of course, every case is unique and many factors could play a role in any particular situation. If you have further questions regarding this or any other topic, please contact The Law Offices of Dussault & Zatir.