Massachusetts residents enjoy significant legal protection from vicious dog owners. In Boston, we have been representing victims of dog and other animal bite injuries in Boston, and throughout Massachusetts, since 1985. Each case is different, however, we have drafted this column for general reference for our clients.
The following is the full statute regarding the law in this matter:
General Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 140: Section 155. Liability for damage caused by dog; minors; presumption and burden of proof.
Section 155. If any dog shall do any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper, or if the owner or keeper be a minor, the parent or guardian of such minor, shall be liable for such damage, unless such damage shall have been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog. If a minor, on whose behalf an action under this section is brought, is under seven years of age at the time the damage was done, it shall be presumed that such minor was not committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, and the burden of proof thereof shall be upon the defendant in such action.
Further, in 2009, the Courts extended the law to include landlord responsibility in some cases. In Nutt v. Florio, 75 Mass.App.Ct. 482 (2009) the Court declared that a landlord, who was not the “owner” or the “keeper” of a pit bull, could be considered responsible for the damages created by the dog. The court reasoned that because a pit bull is a breed “commonly known to be aggressive” the landlord’s ” knowledge of that breed and its propensities may properly be a factor to be considered in determining whether the defendants were negligent under common-law principles.”
Often dog bites are associated with children. Our experience is that it is necessary to work very hard at securing witnesses to what happened. This is because the insurance companies who defend such cases use the tactic of accusing the child of teasing the animal. When faced with admitting their animal caused harm, often owners go along with this defense.
While any dog, especially those that are mistreated, neglected or poorly trained by their owners, are capable of attacks, the following breeds have a reputation for viciousness: Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers. If you, or a loved one becomes a victim of a dog, or any kept animal, seek proper medical attention and contact us to determine what, if anything, can be done to compensate you for your injuries. We may be able to both compensate you and prevent attacks on other unsuspecting victims.