Visitor Question

Child bitten by dog while we were staying at an AirBnB…

Submitted By: Ashraf (Ellicott City, Maryland)

We are staying at an AirBnB on a farm in Maine. The farm owners have animals on the farm, including a number of dogs. When we first arrived there, we were told that the animals were safe and the dogs never bite. The kids (6,9 & 11) had been playing with the farm owner’s children and relatives, and had been also playing with the animals for two days since we got here.

This morning our kids went out to play as they have been doing. As my six year old daughter was playing with one of the dogs on the farm, that we were told was harmless and were left around the children, the dog bit her on the right forearm about three inches away from her thumb. The arm bled some.

The farm owner interestingly did not let us know about what happened and I did not find out until my daughter returned to the cottage where we are staying on the farm. As soon as I found out I went out looking for the farm owners to ask if the dog has his shots updated. Interestingly again I didn’t find any of the farm owners.

What can be done about this? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Ashraf,

We presume your question has to do with the liability of the dog owner for the bite to your daughter’s arm. Based on the facts, the dog owner is strictly liable for the injuries to your daughter and her resulting medical costs. Strictly liable is to be distinguished from generally liable in the following manner…

Strict liability means that to recover compensation for your daughter’s injury will not require you to prove the farmer was negligent. The mere bite, in and of itself, is enough to show the farmer was negligent. This is supported by his unqualified and unequivocal statement to you that the dogs do not bite, and your age.

Strict liability is to be distinguished from general liability. For example, if the farm owner previously told you not to leave your daughter alone with the dogs, or if the farmer said your daughter should not tease the animals, and the injury still occurred, then the farmer would still likely be liable for your daughter’s injuries. However, to sustain his liability would require you to prove the farmer was negligent.

However, in trying to prove the farmer was negligent, the farmer might assert an “affirmative defense.” This means he might admit his dog caused the injury, but that he should be relieved of liability because your daughter teased the dog, or that he told you not to leave her alone with the dogs, and you did. From the facts you present, that’s obviously not the case.

Before considering legal action be sure your daughter seeks the medical attention she needs. Dogs can transfer parasitic infections such as rabies, chagas disease, cysticercosis, toxocariasis, and other infections.

Ask the farmer for the name of his liability insurance carrier and file a claim with them. In the event your daughter’s injury results in any of the above infections, or other disease, or if the scar will be permanent, you and your daughter would be best served by seeking the advice and counsel of a personal injury attorney in the state in which the injury took place.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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