LAW 512-001 – Torts II

Animals


The basis of strict liability for animals is on those keep, possess, or harbor the animal, not just the owner.

One is not liable for wild animals unless he controls or possesses one.

Trespassing Animals

There are four different rules in use for trespassing animals:

  1. Some courts impose no strict liability for trespassing animals and just use a negligence standard.
  2. Common Law Trespassing Animals Rule

    The owner of animals likely to roam and do damage is strictly liable for their trespasses.

    An owner is strictly liable for the damage done by the trespass of animals as long as it was reasonably foreseeable.

    Livestock straying from a highway on which they are lawfully being driven are exempt.

    Dogs and cats are not included.

  3. Fencing Out Statute

    A fencing out statute states that there is strict liability for the owner of an animal that breaks through another's properly fenced-out land.

  4. Fencing In Statute

    A fencing in statute holds an owner of animals strictly liable if an animal is not properly restrained.

    If the animal is fenced in properly and escapes anyway, there are three different responses:

    1. No strict liability, instead just using negligence
    2. Strict liability
    3. Common Law Trespassing Animals Rule

      The owner of animals likely to roam and do damage is strictly liable for their trespasses.

      An owner is strictly liable for the damage done by the trespass of animals as long as it was reasonably foreseeable.

      Livestock straying from a highway on which they are lawfully being driven are exempt.

      Dogs and cats are not included.

Wild Animals

The majority rule imposes strict liability upon the possessor of wild animals that injure someone.

  • An increasing number of states forgo this in favor of a negligence standard for zoos.
Domestic Animals

There are three rules for liability concerning domestic animals:

  1. One-Bite Rule

    Some states allow domestic animals "one free bite" for which the owner of the animal cannot be held liable for at all, but they then hold owners strictly liable for any future bites by the animal.

  2. A majority of states impose strict liability if an owner knows or has reason to know that a domestic animal has vicious propensities abnormal to its class.
    • Generally, breed does not matter.
    • If the owner does not know or have reason to know, a negligence standard is used.
  3. Some states set a rule by statute, often doing away with the requirement that a plaintiff prove scienter.
    • (Scienter is the "knows or has reason to know" part.)