Timothy L. Miles | Personal Injury Attorney |
“One Bite Rule” Abolished
Older Tennessee law provided a dog owner was not responsible for a dog bite or dog attack as long as the dog had never bitten or attacked anyone previously. In other words, the dog got one free bite. However, in 2006, 60-year-old Dianna Acklen was killed by 3 dogs in a rural residential neighborhood while she was taking her regular walk. In response, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007 which abolished the “first-bite” rule. Under the new law, a dog owner is subject to strict liability for certain dog bite injuries regardless of whether the dog has ever been vicious before.
Dog Owners’ Duty to Keep Dog Under Control
In accordance with the new law, dog owner to (a) keep the dog under reasonable control and (b) keep the dog from running at large. A dog owner who breaches either one of those provisions 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”. However, the law has a number of exceptions including:
- The dog bite law does not apply to a military or police dog in the performance of its official duties;
- The dog bite law does not apply if the injured person was trespassing upon the private, nonresidential property of the dog’s owner;
- The dog bite law does not apply if the injury occurred while the dog was protecting the dog’s owner or other innocent party from attack by the injured person or a dog owned by the injured person;
- The dog bite law does not apply if the injury occurred while the dog was securely confined in a crate, kennel or other enclosure;
- The dog bite law does not apply if the injury occurred as a result of the injured person enticing, disturbing, alarming, harassing, or otherwise provoking the dog,
The “Residential Exception”
There was one notable exception that exempted those subjected to strict liability known as the “residential exception” Under the new law, if the dog injures a person while the person is on the residential, farm or other non-commercial property of the dog owner, or while the dog is on such property by the permission of the landowner, then liability does not attach unless the victim can prove the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog’s dangerous propensities. In short, the residential exception is the same thing as the first free bite rule.
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