Oklahoma Dog Bite Law

A dog bite victim in Oklahoma can recover compensation under a special statute and the doctrines of negligence, negligence per se, scienter, and intentional tort. The law of Oklahoma is favorable to victims whether bitten or injured a different way, if the victim was not a trespasser and did not provoke the dog. However, the dog bite statute in this state has an unusual exemption for accidents in rural areas and places where the US Post Office does not deliver mail.

Dog bite statute

Oklahoma has the following strict liability law:

The owner or owners of any dog shall be liable for damages to the full amount of any damages sustained when his dog, without provocation, bites or injures any person while such person is in or on a place where he has a lawful right to be.

For the purpose of this act a person shall be considered to be lawfully upon the private property of the owner of a dog 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 of the United States, or the postal regulations of the United States, or when reading meters, or making repairs to any public utility or service located on said premises, or when working on said property at the request of the owner or any tenant having a lease upon any portion of said property, or when on such property upon the invitation, either  expressed or implied, of the owner or lessee of such property. The term “public place” shall, for the purpose of this act, mean and include any and all public buildings, parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities, and any and all places of business, amusement or entertainment which are privately owned, wherein merchandise, property, services, entertainment or facilities are offered for sale, hire, lease, or use.

There is an exception for accidents in rural areas and those which do not have US Mail delivery:

Provided that this act shall not apply to rural areas of this state or to any cities or towns that do not have city or village United States mail delivery service. Provided, nothing herein shall be construed as diminishing any right or liability for injury by dog bites now existing under the laws of this state. 

Landlord liability

In Miller v. David Grace, Inc., par. 24, 212 P.3d 1223 (2009) the Oklahoma Supreme Court said “this Court imposes a general duty of care upon landlords to maintain the leased premises, including areas under the tenant’s exclusive control or use, in a reasonably safe condition. This duty requires a landlord to act reasonably when the landlord knew or reasonably should have known of the defective condition and had a reasonable opportunity to make repairs.” The court went on to say:

“The law is well-settled that a landowner has a duty to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, Jack Healey Linen Ser. Co. v. Travis, 1967 OK 213, ¶ 5, 434 P.2d 924, 926-27, and to warn others of any “hidden dangers, traps, snares, pitfalls, and the like.” Id. ¶ 5, 434 P.2d at 926-27 (citing Henryetta Constr. Co. v. Harris, 1965 OK 88, ¶ 3, 408 P.2d 522, 531-32 (Irwin, J., supplemental opinion on rehearing)). Excepted from this duty is the necessity of protecting from dangers so “open and obvious” as to reasonably expect others to detect them for themselves. Id. ¶ 5, 434 P.2d 926-27 (citing Henryetta Constr. Co. v. Harris, 1965 OK 88, ¶ 7, 408 P.2d 522, 531-32 (Irwin, J., supplemental opinion on rehearing)).”

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the victim of a dog known to the landlord to be vicious toward people can bring a claim against the landlord after being attacked by a dog belonging to a tenant. To put it another way, Oklahoma follows the one bite rule when it comes to dog bite claims against landlords and property owners.