Michigan Law Regarding Dog Bites

When your dog personally injures / bites a solicitor who is on your property which has a sign warning of your dog, but not prohibiting solicitation, you can still be sued. The salesman will argue that he was was lawfully on your property because you did not have a “no solicitation” sign, and your dog bit him without provocation. Your response should be to argue that he was a trespasser, unlawfully on the property because you did not invite him and your dog warning sign is evidence that he was to keep away, and that he either intentionally or unintentionally provoked your dog.

MCL 287.351 applies. If a dog bites a person, without provocation while the person is lawfully on the property of the owner of the dog, the owner shall be liable for any damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness. The salesman must provethat: 1. He was injured by a dog bite; 2. He was lawfully on your private property; 3. The biting was without provocation; and 4. You were the owner of the dog. Per the Michigan Civil Jury Instructions (MCJI). If any one has not been proved, then you win.

Numbers 2 and 3 are the more difficult elements and require further explanation. A person is lawfully on the private property of the dog owner if he is an invitee or licensee. Since the salesman’s status is a main part of the dispute as the salesman will argue that he was an invitee or licensee, and you will argue that he was a trespasser, the Court will review the definitions of licensee, invitee, or trespasser as defined in the MCJI 19.01 and draft a specific instruction for the fact pattern in dispute. An invitee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on premises for a commercial benefit to the possessor of the premises or for a purpose directly or indirectly connected with business dealings with the possessor. An invitation may be either express or implied. A licensee is a person who is invited to enter or remain on premises for any purpose other than a business or commercial one with the express or implied permission of the owner or person in control of the premises. A social guest is a licensee, not an invitee. A trespasser is a person who goes upon the premises of another without an express or implied invitation, for his or her own purposes, and not in the performance of any duty to the owner. It is not necessary that in making such an entry the trespasser have an unlawful intent. The salesperson must argue that he was a licensee impliedly invited onto the property since there was no posted “no solicitation” sign.

As to the “provocation”, this means any action or activity, whether intentional or unintentional, which would reasonably be expected to cause a dog in similar circumstances to react in a manner similar to that shown by the evidence. Stands to reason that going onto the property and knocking could constitute provocation in light of the fact that there is a posted sign.

Word to the wise: Put up a “no solicitations” sign if you have a dog.

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