Tennessee's Dog Bite Law and Proving Your Case

dog bite

In 2006, 60 year old Dianna Acklen was killed by 3 dogs in a rural residential neighborhood while she was taking her regular walk. In response, the Tennessee Legislature passed the Dianna Acklen Act of 2007 which abolished the "first-bite" rule. Under the old law, a dog owner was not responsible for a dog bite or dog attack as long as the dog had never bitten or attacked anyone previously. In essence, the dog got one free bite. Under the new law, a dog owner is subject to strict liability for certain dog bite injuries regardless of whether the dog has ever been vicious before.

The new law requires the dog owner to (a) keep the dog under reasonable control and (b) keep the dog from running at large. A dog owner who breaches either one of those provisions is "subject to civil liability for any damages suffered by a person who is injured by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in or on the private property of another".  However, the law has a number of exceptions including:

  1. The dog bite law does not apply to a military or police dog in the performance of its official duties;
  2. The dog bite law does not apply if the injured person was trespassing upon the private, nonresidential property of the dog's owner;
  3. The dog bite law does not apply if the injury occurred while the dog was protecting the dog's owner or other innocent party from attack by the injured person or a dog owned by the injured person;
  4. The dog bite law does not apply if the injury occurred while the dog was securely confined in a crate, kennel or other enclosure;
  5. The dog bite law does not apply if the injury occurred as a result of the injured person enticing, disturbing, alarming, harassing, or otherwise provoking the dog.

But the biggest exception is the "residential"exception. Under the new law, if the dog injures a person while the person is on the residential, farm or other non-commercial property of the dog owner, or while the dog is on such property by the permission of the landowner, then liability does not attach unless the victim can prove the dog owner knew or should have known of the dog's dangerous propensities. In short, the residential exception is a throw-back to the first free bite rule.

In any dog bite case, there may be valid claims for negligence or negligence per se and, with more than 80 years of experience, our knowledgeable and skilled team of dog bite lawyers know how to prosecute both types of claims to ensure you receive justice and the maximum compensation reasonably possible.

If you, your child or other loved one has been hurt in a dog bite case, contact us online or call us any time of day at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866.812.8787. We will provide a free, no-obligation consultation in which we thoroughly review your case and answer your questions.  We only get paid if we recover money for you. And, at The Law Offices of John Day, P.C., we advance all costs of the litigation so you are never out of pocket any money to pursue your dog bite case. For more information on our fees and case expenses, click here.

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