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Dog Bites
Michigan law recognizes three potential causes of action arising out of a dog bite incident: Statutory, common-law strict liability, and common-law negligence. The actions can be pleaded alternatively. The dog bite statute creates strict liability for owners. Under the statute, the only facts necessary to sustain the Plaintiff's case are that the dog bit the plaintiff, that the biting was without provocation, that the defendant owned the dog and that the Plaintiff was lawfully at the location where the incident occurred. Provocation is a fact question for the jury and the actual ownership is required.

The common-law strict liability is bases on the theory that whoever knowingly keeps an animal accustomed to attacking and injuring persons is prima facie liability to any person attacked and injured. Generally, this action requires proof that the owner or keeper of the animal knew of its vicious nature as prerequisite to liability.

Because the statutory action applies only to an owner, common-law liability should be pleaded if the animal was under the control of a keeper, not the actual owner, when the alleged incident occurred. The burden of loss under common law strict liability is allocated on an equitable basis to the party who has introduced the potential danger into the community and wither knows of the animal's abnormal propensity or has had the animal long enough to be chargeable with notice of its dangerous habits. The defendant need not be the actual owner.

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