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What are common defenses to dog bite cases in Minnesota?

Minnesota is a “strict liability” state when it comes to dog bites.  However, that does not mean that a defendant or their insurance company will lay down without a fight. The three most commonly raised defenses in these cases are: 1) that the injured person was provoking the dog; 2) that the injured person was trespassing when they were bit; and 3) that the statute of limitations has run barring the claim in its entirety.

It is important to note that because Minnesota is a strict liability state regarding dog bites – it is an uphill battle for the defendant or their insurance company to assert these defenses. For reference, the Minnesota Statute (Minn. Stat. 347.22) governing dog bites is quoted in its entirety below:

“If a dog, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is acting peaceably in any place where the person may lawfully be, the owner of the dog is liable in damages to the person so attacked or injured to the full amount of the injury sustained. The term “owner” includes any person harboring or keeping a dog but the owner shall be primarily liable. The term “dog” includes both male and female of the canine species.”

Please continue to read below for a short description of each of these defenses and look back next week for an article detailing ways around these defenses.


To recover in a dog bite case in Minnesota, the injured party must not have provoked the dog and must have been acting “peaceably” and “lawfully”. Basically, this means that the defendant or their insurance company can claim that the injured party had provoked the dog to a degree where it was their fault that the dog bit them. This defense is similar to a comparative fault defense where a defendant claims that the injured party is also at fault for their injuries.


An injured person cannot assert a claim if they were trespassing when the dog bite occurred. This means that an injured person may only bring a claim if they were legally present on the property when the dog bite occurred. Expanding on that point, it is important to note that dog bite claims are permissible when the bite occurred on either private or public property so long as the injured person was on the property legally.

An example of a valid application of this defense would be a case where a robber broke into a home and was bitten by a dog. Since the robber was not on the premises, legally his claim would be defeated based on the defense of trespass.

Statute of Limitation

A statute of limitations defense is not specific to dog bites but is a broad defense in all sorts of both civil and criminal actions. In layman’s terms, once a certain amount of times has passed an injured party is barred from bringing forth their claim or filing a lawsuit. There are ways to “toll” or extend this time period, however, these are often complex.

The statute of limitations in dog bite cases is two years. It is a good rule of thumb to contact a dog bite attorney soon after the injury to avoid having the case thrown out.

How Sand Law Can Help

The personal injury attorneys at Sand Law are skilled in handling these issues throughout St. Paul, Minneapolis, and greater Minnesota. Please feel free to contact us for a free consultation where we can explain your rights and zealously advocate for you.

Stop into either our St. Paul or White Bear Lake office or visit us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.