This is a sample brief of the law of Michigan pertaining to just three causes of action: statutory liability, negligence based on the violation of a city leash law, and strict liability based on a city ordinance. Many other causes of action are possible in a dog bite case; see Causes of Action. Those which have been used in Michigan dog bite cases are discussed at Michigan Dog Bite Law. A Complaint containing these causes of action can be easily drafted by using the templates in Dog Bite Lawsuit Forms and The Undemurrable Complaint.
The state of Michigan holds the owner of a dog strictly liable for dog bites to a human being that were not provoked, provided that if the incident happened upon the dog owner’s property the victim was not a trespasser or there to do something unlawful or criminal. Liability also can be based upon scienter, negligence, negligence per se and other grounds such as battery. As I will explain, there are actually three grounds for liability in this case.
The first is the statutory ground set forth in the strict liability dog bite statute, Mich. Comp. Laws Ann., sec. 287.351. It provides that “[i]f 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.”
The second ground is negligence for walking the dog without a leash. Section 10-27 of the Grosse Pointe Code of Ordinances required the defendants to keep the attacking dog on a leash. Subsection (a) of section 10-27 stated, “[n]o owner of any dog may permit such dog to stray beyond his premises unless the dog is on a leash but no longer than 10 feet in length which leash is properly held by a person capable of restraining the actions of such dog, or unless such dog is in an enclosed vehicle or container.” Michigan case law establishes that the violation of this type of an ordinance constitutes proof of negligence. Zeni v Anderson, 397 Mich 117, 128-129 (1976); Gould v Atwell, 205 Mich App 154, 158 (1994).
The third ground is section 10-28 of the the Grosse Pointe Code of Ordinances. It provides that “[e]very owner of a dog shall be liable for damages for any and all injuries to person or property caused by such dog, to be determined and collected in appropriate civil proceedings, and nothing in this chapter shall be construed to impose any liability upon the city, its agents or employees, for damages caused by such dog.” It is a strict liability dog bite law.