What Does It Mean To Have A Lawful Right To Be Some Place?

Generally, if the bite occurred in any place that the person has a lawful right to be in, then the location, whether public or private is irrelevant. A lawful place falls into two categories, a public place and private property. A person has the lawful right to be in any public place. Thus, a dog owner is liable for any injury occurring in a public place. Examples of a public place include public streets, sidewalks, parks, alleyways, buildings, recreational facilities, and any private place of business where goods and services are offered to the public. So, if you are taking your dog for a walk down the street and your dog bites the person passing by you, you are generally on the hook for payment of any injuries that the person receives.

For private property, such as a residential home, a person is in a lawful place when he or she has received an invitation or has been granted permission to be on the property for some lawful purpose. In addition, any person with a “lawful duty” to be on the private property is in a lawful place. Examples of a “lawful duty” include delivery of mail, repairs to a public utility or service, or working on improvements or repairs at the owner’s request. However, if the person injured was not lawfully permitted to be on your property, a trespasser or a thief for example, you generally will not be liable if your dog attacks. 

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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