There is more than one ground for liability in Tennessee. This brief is for a case brought under the dog bite statute which was drafted by Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips, the author of Dog Bite Law. The specific ground for liability in this brief is breach of the prohibition against a dog from running at large, which is defined in the statute itself. In the case which prompted the writing of this brief, the attacking dog was in one yard, the victim (a little girl named Cambria) was in an adjacent yard, and the attacking dog jumped the fence to bite the victim. Here is the brief:
Liability in this case is based on the Tennessee dog bite statute. In 2007 Tennessee established strict liability for canine-inflicted injuries (bites and other injuries) under specific circumstances. The law was entitled the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007, and was codified as T.C.A. sec. 44-8-413. It created two duties for a dog owner: his or her dog must be under reasonable control and not running at large. Violating even one of the two duties makes the dog owner liable for the victim’s injuries.
The statute defines “running at large” as when “a dog goes uncontrolled by the dog’s owner upon the premises of another without the consent of the owner of the premises, or other person authorized to give consent, or goes uncontrolled by the owner upon a highway, public road, street or any other place open to the public generally.” (Sec. 44-8-413 subd. (e)(2).) When your insureds’ dog jumped the fence to get at this little girl, the dog was running at large.
The statute defines “owner” as “a person who, at the time of the damage caused to another, regularly harbors, keeps or exercises control over the dog, but does not include a person who, at the time of the damage, is temporarily harboring, keeping or exercising control over the dog.” (Sec. 44-8-413 subd. (e)(1).) There is no dispute that your insureds owned this dog.
Because the dog was running at large and your insureds were its owners, your insureds breached their statutory duty under the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007. “A person who breaches that duty is subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another.” Thus, your insureds are 100% liable for the horrific injuries inflicted by their dog upon Cambria.