Dog Bite Laws: California Civil Code § 3342

Dog Bite Laws: California Civil Code § 3342

California Civil Code § 3342 Dog Bite Statute 

(a) The owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. A person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner within the meaning of this section when he is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

(b) Nothing in this section shall authorize the bringing of an action pursuant to subdivision (a) against any governmental agency using a dog in military or police work if the bite or bites occurred while the dog was defending itself from an annoying, harassing, or provoking act, or assisting an employee of the agency in any of the following:

(1) In the apprehension or holding of a suspect where the employee has a reasonable suspicion of the suspect’s involvement in criminal activity.

(2) In the investigation of a crime or possible crime.

(3) In the execution of a warrant.

(4) In the defense of a peace officer or another person.

(c) Subdivision (b) shall not apply in any case where the victim of the bite or bites was not a party to, nor a participant in, nor suspected to be a party to or a participant in, the act or acts that prompted the use of the dog in the military or police work.

(d) Subdivision (b) shall apply only where a governmental agency using a dog in military or police work has adopted a written policy on the necessary and appropriate use of a dog for the police or military work enumerated in subdivision (b).

Although, owner(s)’ of a dog who has bitten another person is held strictly liable for damages in California. There is a defense to this rule known as “assumption of risk” Assumption of risk can be used as a defense when the victim of a dog bite is working in the capacity of a veterinarian, or some other contracted dog handler. Cohen v. McIntyre, 16 Cal. App. 4th 650 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. June 15, 1993); Priebe v. Nelson, 140 P.3d 848 (Cal. Aug. 28, 2006).  “The doctrine of assumption of risk, which is generally applicable in strict liability actions has long been recognized as a defense to a personal injury action brought pursuant to the dog bite statute (§ 3342) under appropriate facts.” Priebe, 140 P.3d 848, 853.

Can I Still Be Sued If The Dog Bite Did Not Result in Any Lacerations?

While many may be under the impression that you can only be sued if your dog bit someone which resulted in scarring or breaking of the skin; “it is not necessary that the skin be broken in order for the statute to apply”. (Johnson v. McMahan (1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 173, 176 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 173].)

In Priebe, the Supreme Court of California held that the defendant dog owner was not strictly liable when his dog bit the plaintiff kennel worker. Id. at 861. The court reasoned, “Priebe, by virtue of the nature of her occupation as a kennel worker, assumed the risk of being bitten or otherwise injured by the dogs under her care and control while in the custody of the commercial kennel where she worked pursuant to a contractual boarding agreement.” Id. Similarly, the court in Cohen, held that the plaintiff veterinarian assumed the risk of being bitten by the defendant’s dog, and therefore was barred from recovery. Cohen, 16 Cal. App. 4th 650, 657. However, the court in Davis v. Gaschler, held that assumption of risk did not apply when the plaintiff stopped to help a dog that was hit by a car, and was bitten by the dog. Davis v. Gaschler, 11 Cal. App. 4th 1392, 1402 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. Dec. 23, 1992).  The court reasoned, “plaintiff was not employed or otherwise compensated for helping injured dogs. Nor was there an employment relationship or any relationship between plaintiff and defendants.” Id. at 1401.

Essential Elements You Must Prove in Dog Bite Statute Civ. Code, § 3342

In California, dog owners can be held responsible for the harm from a dog bite, no matter how carefully they guard or restrain their dogs.

In order to establish a claim, Plaintiff must prove all of the following:

  1. That defendant owned a dog;
  2. That the dog bit Plaintiff while [he/she] was in a public place or lawfully on private property;
  3. That Plaintiff was harmed; and
  4. That Defendant’s dog was a substantial factor in causing Plaintiff harm.

The Plaintiff bit by the dog was lawfully on private property of the owner if [he/ she] was performing any duty required by law or was on the property at the invitation, express or implied, of the owner.

If you have questions regarding dog bites, we invite you to contact our experienced Glendale personal injury attorney for a free consultation at (310) 943-1171.

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