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.