Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got an unexpected surprise when he visited the St. Louis Zoo recently. The presidential candidate decided to take some time before his speech to the National Rifle Association to go on a paid private tour and get up close and personal with a Magellanic penguin. One of the penguins decided that it wanted to get up close and personal with Gingrich too - by biting him on the finger.
Fortunately, a Band-Aid was enough first aid to treat the very minor injury. However, many other victims of animal bites are not so lucky. Animals bite millions of people across the United States every year, with dogs being the most common culprits. As a Saint Louis injury attorney, I have represented clients who have suffered both minor and severe injuries due to animal bites.
Under Missouri law, the owner of an animal that injures another person could potentially be strictly liable. When the owner of an animal is found "strictly liable" for an attack, that means the owner is at fault just by virtue of the fact that the attack occurred. Strict liability is found when both a) the animal had vicious or dangerous propensities, and b) the defendant owner had knowledge of the animal's vicious or dangerous propensities. One case went a step further, holding that the owner of a Doberman pincher should have known that his dog was dangerous.
Section 322.145 states that "the owner of an animal that bites ... shall be liable to an injured party for all damages done by the animal." Section 273.036(1) further elaborate with the following:
The owner or possessor of any dog that bites, without provocation, any person while such person is on public property, or lawfully on private property, including the property of the owner or possessor of the dog, is strictly liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner's or possessor's knowledge of such viciousness. Owners and possessors of dogs shall also be strictly liable for any damage to property or livestock proximately caused by their dogs. If it is determined that the damaged party had fault in the incident, any damages owed by the owner or possessor of the biting dog shall be reduced by the same percentage that the damaged party's fault contributed to the incident... (emphasis added)
In other words, the law does heavily favor the victims of animal attacks, so long as those victims did not provoke the attack. Thus, if you need more than a quick Band-Aid from an errant penguin's peck, there is relief available under Missouri law.
For more information about the state of animal bite law in Missouri, please look at this page. If you, a relative, or friend have been injured by a dog bite or other animal attack, call Saint Louis injury lawyer Ben Sansone for a free consultation at (314) 863-0500.
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