Vermont Supreme Court Declines to Change Common Law Rule Requiring Proof of Owner’s Negligence As Prerequisite for Dog Bite Liability.

The parents of a three-year-old child filed an action seeking damages against the owners of a two-year-old boxer that bit the child and severely injured her. The trial court granted the owner’s motion to dismiss the strict liability claim on the grounds that Vermont law requires proof of negligence to recover against a dog owner for damages caused by the owner’s dog. On review, the court affirmed, ruling that Vermont law had long required proof of a dog owner’s negligence to establish liability. The court found that the negligence requirement is the general rule in the United States, except for those states that have enacted strict liability legislation (for example, Iowa). The court stated that while it does sometimes change the common law to meet the changing need of its people, the dog liability issue was better left for legislative resolution. Martin v. Christman, No. 13-250, 2014 Vt. LEXIS 63 (Jun. 13, 2014).

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