Massachusetts Court Explains Liability for Dog Attacks

Many jurisdictions, including Massachusetts, have a “dog bite” law that makes owners accountable for any harm their dogs inflict to unwitting victims. While the statute does not require proof of carelessness in order to seek damages, it does require proof of other components, such as ownership. A Massachusetts court recently considered whether a property owner might be held accountable for injuries caused by one of its tenants’ dogs under the dog bite law. If you were injured by a dog, you should consult with a qualified Massachusetts personal injury attorney to see what compensation you may be entitled to recover.

The Circumstances Surrounding the Plaintiff’s Injury

The plaintiff allegedly rode his bicycle past a residential rental property held by the defendant. The plaintiff was chased by a dog belonging to a renter who lived on the premises. It then bit him, knocking him from his bike and injuring him. The plaintiff then filed a case against the defendant, stating that he was strictly accountable for the plaintiff’s injuries under the dog bite legislation. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, requesting the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff appealed the court’s decision in favor of the defendant.

Dog Owner Liability Under Massachusetts Law

The trial court’s decision was upheld by the appellate court. Despite the plaintiff’s allegations to the contrary, the dog bite legislation did not apply to the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant, according to the court. The defendant, the court explained, was not the dog’s owner or keeper, and hence could not be held strictly accountable for the dog’s actions under the dog bite law.

The plaintiff had to show that the defendant had a responsibility to exercise reasonable care, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the defendant’s failure caused the plaintiff’s harm in order to recover damages under a negligence claim, according to the court. However, the court clarified that landowners are generally not obligated to protect parties from injury caused by risky or illegal activities of others. The court went on to say that there was no case law in Massachusetts stating that a landlord had a duty to protect a third party from harm caused by a tenant’s dog, and it declined to create one in this instance. As a result, it upheld the trial court’s decision.

Speak to a Capable Massachusetts Attorney

Many dogs are nice, yet even the most friendly dogs can attack people at any time. Dog bites may be extremely painful, and dog owners should be held liable for any injuries their pets cause. If you have been injured by a dog bite, you should seek legal counsel to assess what damages may be available for your losses.  Attorney John S. Moffa of the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, can analyze the circumstances surrounding your injury and assist you in obtaining the maximum compensation available under the law. You can reach Mr. Moffa via the online form or by calling 508-362-5554 to set up a meeting.

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