Laws governing dog bite cases vary significantly from state to state, and there are many differences regarding attributing liability, filing notices, and applicable damages. Although many states follow the “one-bite rule,” Maine rejected the statute in 2001. Instead, Maine Statute section 3961, provides that an injury victim may hold a dog owner or keeper liable if the dog caused injuries to a person, damaged another’s property, or both, and the injury was not the fault of the victim. Depending on the circumstances of the dog bite, Maine will either apply the strict liability standard or negligence standard.
Under a strict liability theory, an owner or keeper of a dog who injures a person away from the owner’s property may be liable for damages. Thus, through strict liability, a person who suffers injuries from a dog bite may hold the owner or keeper responsible, even if the dog has never done anything similar before. In Maine, a dog’s “keeper” or “owner” is the person in control of a dog or another animal. A person becomes the keeper of a stray animal if the person feeds it for at least ten consecutive days.
In most cases, Maine applies the strict liability standard for dog bite cases. Therefore, the law does not allow for a reduction of damages because of the victim’s contributory negligence. Under this theory, a person who suffers injuries from a dog bite may hold the owner or keeper liable, even if the dog has never done anything similar before. In these cases, the law does not consider the victim’s contributory negligence in any damage calculations. In cases, where a dog causes injuries on the owner’s property, the dog bite victim must be able to establish that the owner failed to exhibit reasonable care in controlling the dog or preventing the victim’s injury.