A dog owner is generally strictly liable for injuries resulting from a Washington dog bite if the person who was bitten was in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the dog owner’s property. This strict liability statute applies only when the dog bites a person. Where there is no dog bite, strict liability does not apply.
A woman recently appealed a jury verdict against her in an alleged dog bite case. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant and his mother-in-law alleging one of the defendant’s dogs bit her during an altercation between her dog and the defendant’s dogs. The defendant’s dogs were in his mother-in-law’s care at the time of the incident, but the mother-in-law settled with the plaintiff prior to trial. The plaintiff alleged the defendant was strictly liable for her injuries as the dog’s owner pursuant to RCW 16.08.040. Under RCW 16.08.040, a dog owner is liable for injuries resulting from his or her dog biting a person who is in a public place or lawfully in a private place.
The jury responded “no” on the special verdict form asking if one of the defendant’s dogs bit the plaintiff. The plaintiff appealed, arguing the jury instructions were erroneous. The appeals court, found, however, that the plaintiff had not preserved the issues regarding the jury instructions for appeal and therefore did not address them.