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Wisconsin appeals court extends liability in dog bite case

A recent Wisconsin case decided by the District II Court of Appeals held that a person can be found strictly liable for a dog bite, even when they don't live with the animal. This decision is in line with a prior case from the state Supreme Court.

A Wisconsin man purchased a second home in order to give his daughter and her family a place to live. The home was in Larsen, several miles away from the man's primary residence. The daughter's family moved in, along with their two dogs. Over time, the number of dogs owned by the family grew. The daughter was not paying rent to her father. At some point in 2008, the dogs attacked a family friend. The friend sued the daughter's family, the father and their insurance company.

Wisconsin law says that a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries inflicted when the dog bites another person. The statute defines an owner as someone who owns, harbors or keeps a dog. In the lawsuit, the man argued that he was not the owner, since he did not control the dogs. The appeals court disagreed, looking at prior case law to base their decision. A previous Wisconsin Supreme Court case, they said, defined "harboring" as giving refuge, shelter or lodging to a dog. Because the man owned the home and had permitted the dogs to stay for months prior to the dog bite, he was harboring the animal in the eyes of the law.

An animal bite injury can be the cause of scarring and disfigurement, resulting in medical expenses and pain and suffering for the victim. An attorney with experience in dog bite injury claims may be able to help a victim bring an animal bite claim against a negligent pet owner.

Source: State Bar of Wisconsin, "Appeals Court Extends Strict Liability to Parent in Dog Bite Case", Joe Forward, August 30, 2013

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