Minnesota Dog Bite Injury Laws & Owner Liability Rules

When can a dog bite victim sue the dog owner in Minnesota? Learn about the personal injury liability rules and defenses here.

When it comes to dog bite injuries, Minnesota is a "strict liability" state, and Minnesota's dog bite laws impose liability on dog owners in a wide range of circumstances when their pets cause injury to others. We'll discuss the details of Minnesota dog bite law in this article, including the deadlines for filing a Minnesota dog bite lawsuit in court and the possible defenses a dog's owner might raise in response to a dog bite lawsuit.

Deadlines for Filing a Lawsuit

Minnesota's statute of limitations sets a deadline for filing any kind of personal injury case in the Minnesota civil court system, including dog bite cases. In Minnesota, you may lose your right to bring a dog bite lawsuit to court if you do not file within two years of the date of your injury.

Minnesota's Dog Bite Law

Minnesota's dog bite law appears in Section 347.22 of the Minnesota Statutes. It states that an injured person can hold a dog owner liable for injuries caused by the dog if:

  • the person was lawfully in the place where he or she was bitten -- such as on public property or lawfully on private property, and
  • the person was "acting peaceably," and
  • the person did not provoke the dog.

The dog bite law applies to any damages caused when a dog "attacks or injures" another person. This includes both dog bite injuries and injuries caused by other dog-related behaviors. For instance, if a dog causes injuries by jumping on a person and knocking her down, that person could seek damages under Minnesota's dog bite law. The injured person does not have to show that the dog-related injury was caused by the owner's negligence.

"Strict Liability" for Dog Bites in Minnesota

Minnesota has a "strict liability" rule for dog bites. A dog owner will be held liable for injuries as long as the requirements in the statute (discussed above) are met, even if the owner did not know and could not have known the dog would attack, bite, or act aggressively. Strict liability rules for dog bites are used in several states. States that do not use strict liability typically follow a "one bite" rule. This rule requires that the owner know or have reason to know the dog is dangerous before liability can be imposed. Minnesota does not follow the "one bite" rule.

Potential Defenses to a Minnesota Dog Bite Claim

A dog owner facing a lawsuit under Minnesota's dog bite law typically has only two defenses: provocation and trespassing.

Minnesota's dog bite statute specifies that the injured person must be injured "without provocation" in order to hold the dog's owner liable. If the injured person provoked the dog, the owner may not be responsible for damages. For instance, if a person provokes a dog by poking it repeatedly with a stick and is bitten as a result, the owner may argue that the injured person provoked the dog and should therefore receive no damages.

The statute also requires the injured person to be "lawfully" in the place where he or she was injured. This may be a public place, like on the sidewalk, or lawfully in a private place, like on his or her own property or as an invited guest on someone else's property. If the injured person was trespassing, however, the dog's owner may not be liable for injuries.

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