Florida’s Dog Bite Law

Florida Statute 767.04 imposes strict liability on dog owners for injuries suffered in public places and in or on private property when the victim is lawfully there. The former viciousness, in other words, the dog’s history, is irrelevant, hence the strict liability aspect of the statute.

However, the victim’s own negligence (e.g, taunting the dog) can be considered to reduce or avoid a dog owner’s liability.

Additionally, except as to children under the age of 6, “or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words ‘”Bad Dog,”‘ the owner can avoid liability.

Landlords can also be held liable for damages caused by tenants’ dogs, but the standard is not strict liability. The landlord’s liability is established through common law, rather than statutory law, based on the following principle: It is well settled that a landowner is liable for injuries to business invitees and licensees, such as invited salespersons and letter carriers, for injuries caused by latent or concealed perils that are known or should be known to the landowner. See La Villarena, Inc. v. Acosta, 597 So.2d 336 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992); Pittman v. Volusia County, 380 So.2d 1192, 1193 (Fla. 5th DCA 1980); Schwartz v. Selvage, 203 Neb. 158, 277 N.W.2d 681 (1979). Thus, a landlord may be liable for injuries resulting from an attack by a tenant’s dog, if the landlord knew, or should have known that the tenant kept a vicious dog on the premises, and the landlord had the ability to control its presence. See Noble v. Yorke, 490 So.2d 29 (Fla.1986); Vasques By and Through Rocha v. Lopez, 509 So.2d 1241 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987); Ward v. Young, 504 So.2d 528 (Fla. 2d DCA 1987).

Ironically, the existence of a “Bad Dog” sign on the premises, while removing dog owner liability, may be the factor which creates liability for the landlord by establishing his knowledge of the vicious nature of a dog.

Unfortunately, most premise liability insurance policies contain exclusions for dog bites. However, if you are the victim of a dog attack, do not give up hope. Consult with an attorney quickly to devise a strategy to hold the proper parties accountable.

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Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.