A dog bite victim in Nevada can recover compensation under the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter and intentional tort. There is no state dog bite statute so this is a “one bite state.” Individual counties and cities may have ordinances creating strict liability, however.
Nevada permits a dog bite victim to recover compensation on the ground of negligence. See, e.g., Harry v. Smith, 893 P.2d 372, 375 (Nev. 1995). Negligence is the lack of ordinary care; that is, the absence of the kind of care a reasonably prudent and careful person would exercise in similar circumstances. If a person’s conduct in a given circumstance doesn’t measure up to the conduct of an ordinarily prudent and careful person, then that person is negligent. For example, letting a stray dog into a day care center is negligence. See Negligence.
Negligence Per Se
In Nevada, the violation of an animal control law can result in liability on the part of the violator, whether or not he owns the dog. See the analysis in Kaplan v. Rivera, USDC Nevada, Case No. 3:11-cv-00772 (2011).
States, counties and cities often have laws requiring dogs to be on leash, or prohibiting them from being at large or from trespassing. With few exceptions, courts have ruled that violating such laws can be the basis of liability. In this state, the violation constitutes negligence per se. For Nevada’s negligence per se doctrine generally, see Barnes v. Delta Lines, Inc., 99 Nev. 688, 690, 669 P.2d 709 (1983).
Scienter (i.e., Liability Under the One Bite Rule)
The traditional doctrine that makes a person liable for harm inflicted by a domestic animal is referred to as “scienter” (the Latin word for “knowingly”), “common law strict liability,” and “the one bite rule.” As it applies to dog bites, this doctrine holds that a victim can recover compensation from the owner, harborer or keeper of a dog if (a) the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the defendant was aware of the dog’s previous conduct. If either of those conditions are not met, however, the victim cannot employ this doctrine as a ground for recovery. See The One Bite Rule.
No Dog Bite Statute
Nevada does not have a dog bite statute. Critics have asserted that not having a dog bite statute is at odds with modern American beliefs about personal responsibility, because the one bite rule shields a dog owner from liability each time one of his dogs bites a person for the first time unless it can be proved that the owner knew that the dog had the propensity to bite people without justification. See Criticism of the One Bite Rule. Whether one agrees with these critics or not, it nevertheless is true that a dog bite victim has more to prove in the absence of a dog bite statute.