Our Michigan lawsuit office will recover maximum money damages for dog bites
Michigan dog bite lawsuits are governed by Michigan Compiled Law 287.351, which provides, in pertinent part, as follows:
If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner of the dog, the owner of the dog shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
Given the wording of the Michigan dog bite law, the two most common defenses in dog bite lawsuits are (i) the dog was provoked, or (ii) the dog bite victim was not lawfully on the property where the dog bite occurred.
What “provocation” means in a Michigan dog bite lawsuit is not precisely clear; the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that “whether provocation existed is typically a question of fact to be determined by the jury on the basis of the circumstances of each case…” Courts have ruled that grabbing a dog’s tail, and making sudden aggressive movements toward a dog can constitute provocation, depending on the circumstances. In one dog bite lawsuit, a Michigan court ruled that there was no dog bite provocation when a woman was bitten by a growling dog that had wandered onto her property while the woman kicked at the dog to keep it away from her cats. Notably, the court noted in that case that “responding to or reacting to a dog’s vicious and aggressive behavior does not constitute provocation under MCL 287.351.” Additionally, a provocation defense does not necessarily defeat a dog bite lawsuit to the extent that the lawsuit is based on a common law dog bite claim, rather than based on the statute.
Aside from provocation, the only real defense to a Michigan dog bite lawsuit is that the dog bite victim was a trespasser on the property where the dog bite occurred. Under Michigan law, a trespasser may be defined as “a person who enters or remains upon land in the possession of another without a privilege to do so created by the possessor’s consent or otherwise.” So if a Michigan dog bite victim did not have express permission to be on the property where the dog bite occurred, the victim may still avoid being considered a trespasser by establishing that the property owner by establishing that there was a history of the property owner allowing the dog bite victim to enter the property. Some examples would include a child who regularly enters a property to retrieve baseballs without objection from the owner, or a neighbor who regularly crosses a path across a property without objection from the owner.
In short, Michigan dog bite lawsuits are often winnable because there are only two real defenses. However, it is very important to obtain a skilled Michigan lawsuit attorney to handle the lawsuit in order to maximize the value. Favorable settlements or jury verdicts are essentially impossible to obtain without a skilled Michigan lawsuit attorney who knows how to build up and maximize the value of the lawsuit.