The Freibott Law Firm was recently successful in creating new law concerning dangerous dogs in Delaware. The Superior Court acknowledged that Delaware’s dog bit statute imposes strict liability for damages on dog owners regardless of the owners’ knowledge of any dangerous qualities of the dog. Under this statute, as the Court held, the dog owner acts as an insurer of the dog. Moreover, strict liability relieves a Plaintiff from proving specific acts of negligence and protects him/her from certain defenses often used by defense attorneys and insurance companies.
The Court further held that a defense attorney or an insurance company may not use a defense of comparative negligence or assumption of the risk in dog bite actions under Delaware’s strict liability statute. The Court held “the clear and unambiguous language of Delaware’s dog bite statute expressly makes the owner liable in damages for any injury. Such language leaves no room for diminution by a finding of comparative fault.”
Therefore, in cases involving dog bites, if a Plaintiff shows that a dog actually bit the Plaintiff, it is no longer a defense that the Plaintiff was comparatively negligent. Moreover, the Plaintiff does not need to show any prior knowledge on the part of the dog’s owner that the dog was dangerous. Simply put, if a dog bites, the owner is responsible for that bite. (Russo v. Zeigler, Superior Court, C.A. No.: N11C-08-120 PRW)