Negligence per se

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine which holds that the violation of a statute or ordinance intended wholly or partially to prevent harm may constitute the basis of a claim for compensation for harm caused by the violation. In some states, negligence per se establishes a cause of action, while in others it constitutes only a presumption of negligence. These concepts are further discussed at Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA

Restatement of Torts, Second, section 286, defines it as follows:

The court may adopt as the standard of conduct of a reasonable man the requirements of a legislative enactment or an administrative regulation whose purpose is found to be exclusively or in part –
(a) to protect a class of persons which includes the one whose interest is invaded, and
(b) to protect the particular interest which is invaded, and
(c) to protect that interest against the kind of harm which has resulted, and
(d) to protect that interest against the particular hazard from which the harm results.

Here are some cases holding that a violation of dog laws constitutes negligence per se:

  • Miller v. Hurst, 302 Pa. Super. 235; 448 A.2d 614; 1982 Pa. Super. LEXIS 4695 (1982)
  • Pigman v. Nott, 305 Minn. 512, 233 N.W.2d 287 (1975) [doctrine of negligence per se caused owner of horse held liable for damages to automobile, without showing of negligence, because horse was running at large in violation of statute]
  • Alex v. Armstrong, 215 Tenn. 276, 385 S.W.2d 110 (1964) [doctrine of negligence per se caused owner of dog “at large” to be liable for knocking plaintiff to ground, because of violation against prohibition against dog running at large]
  • Butler v. Frieden, 208 Va. 352, 158 S.E.2d 121 (1967) [doctrine of negligence per se caused owner of unleashed and unattended dog held liable for violation of combination at large law and leash law]
  • Eigner v. Race, 54 Cal.App.2d 506 (1942) [doctrine caused owner of Great Dane held liable for knocking down plaintiff, because dog, even though leashed, was not under effective control of minor girl, as required by local ordinance]
  • Brotemarkle v. Snyder, 99 Cal. App. 2d 388 (1950) [doctrine caused owner of dog held liable for injuries to person riding motor scooter, when at large dog ran into the scooter and knocked it down]
  • Duffy v. Gebhart, 52 Del. 312, 157 A.2d 585 (1960) [doctrine caused owner of dog held liable for injuries to person who was walking her own dog, where defendant’s dog was running loose in its owner’s front yard with the owner present, ran onto the public sidewalk, attacked the victim’s dog, and the victim was injured while attempting to protect her dog; also held that plaintiff was not contributorily negligent when she tried to get her dog out of the attack.]