The outcome of a vicarious liability claim against an employer of a dog owner in a recent Maine dog bite injury lawsuit hinged on whether the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time the dog attacked. The case, recently before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, was challenging because the employee and dog owner lived in the same place where he worked. Additionally, the dog owner’s employer was also the victim’s landlord.
The child dog bite injury happened at an apartment complex where the plaintiff and her son resided and for which the dog owner, who also lived on site, was responsible for maintenance.
Vicarious liability, per Maine Revised Statutes 29-A-1109, holds that employers can be responsible for the acts of their employees if they approved or had knowledge of the employee’s actions and either approved or retained benefits, proceeds, profits, or advantages from the acts. Relevant also in this case is Maine Revised Statutes 9-729-3961, which outlines reimbursement for damage done by animals, including dogs. It holds that when an animal causes damage to a person or property due to the negligence of the animal’s keeper or owner, that owner or keeper is liable in a civil action to the injured person for the damage, as long as the injured person wasn’t more at fault than the dog’s keeper or owner.