CACI No. 462. Strict Liability for Injury Caused by Domestic Animal With Dangerous Propensities - Essential Factual Elements

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

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462.Strict Liability for Injury Caused by Domestic Animal With
Dangerous Propensities - Essential Factual Elements
[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant]’s [insert type of animal]
harmed [him/her/nonbinary pronoun] and that [name of defendant] is
responsible for that harm.
People who own, keep, or control animals with unusually dangerous
natures or tendencies can be held responsible for the harm that their
animals cause to others, no matter how carefully they guard or restrain
their animals.
To establish [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] claim, [name of plaintiff] must
prove all of the following:
1. That [name of defendant] owned, kept, or controlled a [insert type
of animal];
2. That the [insert type of animal] had an unusually dangerous
nature or tendency;
3. That before [name of plaintiff] was injured, [name of defendant]
knew or should have known that the [insert type of animal] had
this nature or tendency;
4. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
5. That the [insert type of animal]’s unusually dangerous nature or
tendency was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s
New September 2003; Revised April 2007, June 2013
Directions for Use
Give this instruction to impose strict liability on an animal owner if the owner knew
or should have known that the animal had a dangerous propensity. (See Thomas v.
Stenberg (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 654, 665 [142 Cal.Rptr.3d 24].) There is also strict
liability for injuries caused by animals of a type that are inherently dangerous
without the need to show the owners knowledge of dangerousness. (Baugh v. Beatty
(1949) 91 Cal.App.2d 786, 791-792 [205 P.2d 671]; see CACI No. 461, Strict
Liability for Injury Caused by Wild Animal - Essential Factual Elements.)
For an instruction on statutory strict liability under the dog-bite statute, see CACI
No. 463, Dog Bite Statute (Civ. Code, § 3342) - Essential Factual Elements.
Sources and Authority
“A common law strict liability cause of action may also be maintained if the
owner of a domestic animal that bites or injures another person knew or had
reason to know of the animal’s vicious propensities. If [defendant] knew or
should have known of his dog’s vicious propensities and failed to inform
[plaintiff] of such facts, he could be found to have exposed [plaintiff] to an
unknown risk and thereby be held strictly liable at common law for her injuries.
Under such circumstances, the defense of primary assumption of risk would not
bar [plaintiff]’s claim since she could not be found to have assumed a risk of
which she was unaware.” (Priebe v. Nelson (2006) 39 Cal.4th 1112, 1115-1116
[47 Cal.Rptr.3d 553, 140 P.3d 848], original italics, internal citations omitted.)
“The doctrine of strict liability for harm done by animals has developed along
two separate and independent lines: (1) Strict liability for damages by
trespassing livestock, and (2) strict liability apart from trespass (a) for damages
by animals of a species regarded as inherently dangerous, and (b) for damages
by animals of a species not so regarded but which, in the particular case, possess
dangerous propensities which were or should have been known to the possessor.”
(Thomas,supra, 206 Cal.App.4th at p. 665.)
“California has long followed the common law rule of strict liability for harm
done by a domestic animal with known vicious or dangerous propensities
abnormal to its class.” (Drake v. Dean (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 915, 921 [19
Cal.Rptr.2d 325].)
Any propensity that is likely to cause injury under the circumstances is a
dangerous or vicious propensity within the meaning of the law. (Talizin v. Oak
Creek Riding Club (1959) 176 Cal.App.2d 429, 437 [1 Cal.Rptr. 514].)
The question of whether a domestic animal is vicious or dangerous is ordinarily
a factual one for the jury. (Heath v. Fruzia (1942) 50 Cal.App.2d 598, 601 [123
P.2d 560].)
‘The gist of the action is not the manner of keeping the vicious animal, but the
keeping him at all with knowledge of the vicious propensities. In such instances
the owner is an insurer against the acts of the animal, to one who is injured
without fault, and the question of the owners negligence is not in the case.’
(Hillman v. Garcia-Ruby (1955) 44 Cal.2d 625, 626 [283 P.2d 1033], internal
citations omitted.)
“The absolute duty to restrain the dog could not be invoked unless the jury
found, not only that the dog had the alleged dangerous propensity, but that
defendants knew or should have known that it had.” (Hillman, supra, 44 Cal.2d
at p. 628.)
“[N]egligence may be predicated on the characteristics of the animal which,
although not abnormal to its class, create a foreseeable risk of harm. As to those
characteristics, the owner has a duty to anticipate the harm and to exercise
ordinary care to prevent the harm.” (Drake, supra, 15 Cal.App.4th at p. 929.)
“It is well settled in cases such as this (the case involved a bull) that the owner
of an animal, not naturally vicious, is not liable for an injury done by it, unless
two propositions are established: 1. That the animal in fact was vicious, and 2.
That the owner knew it.” (Mann v. Stanley (1956) 141 Cal.App.2d 438, 441 [296
P.2d 921].)
Secondary Sources
6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Torts, §§ 1575-1588 et seq.
California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) §§ 3.3-3.6
1 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 6, Strict Liability for Injuries Caused by
Animals, §§ 6.01-6.10 (Matthew Bender)
3 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 23, Animals: Civil Liability,
§ 23.33 (Matthew Bender)
1 California Civil Practice: Torts, §§ 2:20-2:21 (Thomson Reuters)

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