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Have You Been Injured By An Animal? Strict Liability, Part II

As you may know, in Florida, there are two(2) statutes that deal with strict liability of damage done by dogs:

The first is Fla.Stat. §767.01, and seems to encompass Fla.Stat. §767.01:

Fla.Stat. §767.01Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons, domestic animals, or livestock,  owners of dogs shall be liable for any damage done by their dogs to a person or to any animal included in the definitions of “domestic animal” and “livestock” as provided by s. 585.01.

Fla.Stat. §767.04 Dog owner’s liability for damages to persons bitten.—The owner of any dog that bites any person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness. However, any negligence on the part of the person bitten that is a proximate cause of the biting incident reduces the liability of the owner of the dog by the percentage that the bitten person’s negligence contributed to the biting incident. A person is lawfully upon private property of such owner within the meaning of this act when the person is on such property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him or her by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner. However, the owner is not liable, except as to a person under the age of 6, or unless the damages are proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of the owner, if at the time of any such injury the owner had displayed in a prominent place on his or her premises a sign easily readable including the words “Bad Dog.” The remedy provided by this section is in addition to and cumulative with any other remedy provided by statute or common law.

The question is has Florida’s strict liability laws on this ever been extended beyond dogs doing damage?  Meaning, what if someone was hurt by a cat, or perhaps some domesticated wild animal, such as a snake, monkey, ape, or perhaps leopard?  In Florida’s case of first impression on this, Isaacs v. Powell, 267 So. 2d 864 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1972), a father brought action on behalf of child against owner of monkey farm to recover for injuries sustained when chimpanzee grabbed child’s arm and hurt it. The Circuit Court, Pinellas County, C. Richard Leavengood, J., returned verdict for owner of chimpanzee, and father appealed. The Second District Court of Appeal held that owner or keeper of chimpanzee was liable under the strict liability doctrine for injuries inflicted on child by chimpanzee.  In Scorza v. Martinez, 683 So.2d 1115 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996), the Fourth District Court of Appeal considered a similar case, and followed the Second District Court of Appeals decision by holding that the owner, keeper, or possessor of a wild animal is strictly liable if the animal injures another. Isaacs v. Powell, 267 So.2d 864 (Fla. 2d DCA 1972), and stated that if the animal is one of a class that is not indigenous to the locality, its escape does not prevent its possessor from being liable for the harm done by the animal no matter how long after its escape.

So, as to rabbits, hamsters, and cats, I would say the answer is there is no strict liability.

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