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Can You Still File a Dog Bite Injury Claim in Connecticut if You Were Trespassing

Dogs have the potential to be extraordinarily dangerous if proper care is not taken by their owners. The  World Animal Foundation (WAF) estimates that more than 4.4 million Americans suffer dog bite injuries each year. In Connecticut, dog bite victims have the right to hold the dog owner legally liable for their injuries. 

You may be wondering: Can I still bring a successful dog bite injury claim if I was trespassing? The short answer is “it depends”—trespassing is a defense against strict liability for a dog bite, but the term is defined more narrowly than most people think. Here, our Hartford dog bite lawyer provides a comprehensive overview of the most important things to know about trespassing and dog bite liability in Connecticut. 

Connecticut is a Strict Liablity State for Dog Bites—but Trespassers are Not Owed that Duty

Connecticut is recognized as a strict liability state when it comes to dog bites. In effect, this system holds that the owner of a dog is held liable for any injuries caused by a bite, regardless of whether or not their negligence contributed to the specific incident. A dog owner can be held strictly liable for a dog bite in Connecticut even if they had no reason to believe their specific canine was dangerous. Dog owners must take proactive safety precautions in Connecticut. 

However, strict liability is not the same thing as absolute liability. A dog owner is not strictly liable for a dog bite in Connecticut if the injured person was “trespassing” at the time of the incident. Trespassers are not owed nearly the same level of care as are invitees. The fact that a person was trespassing at the time a dog bite happened will have a major impact on their case. It could prevent them from recovering financial compensation.  

Trespassing is Defined More Narrowly in Connecticut than Many People Realize 

What does trespassing actually mean for the purposes of Connecticut’s dog bite injury statute? It is important to understand the legal definition within this context because it is different from the general definition that is used in common parlance. The standard was set in a landmark 1953 Supreme Court of Connecticut case called Verrilli v. Damilowski

Walter Damilowski and his wife were sued for damages after their dog bit a person. The incident happened on their property in Bridgeport that they were using purely for storage. The victim (Mary Verrilli) was technically unlawfully on the property. However, the property in question was unoccupied and unfenced. The court found that the defendants used the property about once a week, but kept a dog chained up on the premises. 

Ms. Verrilli took a shortcut through the property to get from one street to another. She was attacked by the dog and seriously injured. Upon review of the case, our state’s highest court determined that she was not a trespasser for the purposes of Connecticut’s dog bite law. As part of the holding the Supreme Court of Connecticut set the standard that trespass in a dog bite case is defined as “something more serious than the mere technical trespass.”

Connecticut has Specialized Regulations for Child “Trespassers” (Under 6) 

In Connecticut, a child who is under the age of six is effectively never a trespasser for the purposes of the state’s dog bite statute. In other words, a very young child can effectively never be a trespasser in a dog bite injury case. Property owners who have dogs that are dangerous to children have a duty to ensure that their premises are secure from the unauthorized entrance by a child and that their dog does not pose a threat. 

The Bottom Line: A trespasser does not have the ability to hold a dog owner strictly liable for a dog bite in Connecticut. However, the state defines the term trespassing in a more narrow manner than the common definition. A person who is walking across another person’s property may not be deemed as trespasser for the purposes of the law and may still be able to bring a dog bite claim. 

Contact Our Hartford, CT Dog Bite Attorney Today

At Tehrani Law Group, LLC, our Harford dog bite lawyers are aggressive and experienced advocates for victims and families. If you have any questions about trespassing and dog bite claims, we are here to help. Get in touch with us by phone at (860) 261-6770 or contact us online to set up your no cost, no obligation appointment. We represent dog bite injury victims throughout Connecticut, including in Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, Waterbury, and Norwalk.