One-Free-Bite Rule? Michigan Man Sticks Tongue Out To Tease Pit Bull . . . Pit Bull Bites Tongue Off

175px-Lgive_lashon220px-American_Pit_Bull_Terrier_-_SeatedThere is a tragic case out of Michigan that could present a novel controversy under the “one free bite” rule for dogs. A 33-year-old man tried to “befriend” a pit bull by putting his face up to the dog and sticking his tongue out. The pit bull proceeded to bite off the man’s tongue, or at least a significant part of it.

Police tried to recover the tongue but they believe the dog swallowed it.

Notably, this is reportedly the second bite incident by this particularly pit bull in just four months.

Under the common law, dogs unlike wild animals are not subject to strict liability. As a domesticated animal, dogs are subject to a negligence standard. This led to the evolution of a “one-free-bite” rule where after a bite, the dog was presumed to be vicious and the owner was potentially subject to strict liability for future attacks. The rule is a bit of a misnomer. You do not get a free bite if the dog showed vicious propensities in other ways.

It is often said that Michigan does not have the traditional one-free-bite rule. That is not entirely accurate. Instead it has a statutory and a common law standard. Under the Michigan Dog Bite Statute (MCL § 287.351), the first bite is sufficient for liability if the victim (1) was lawfully on the property and (2) did not provoke the dog. There is also a common law rule that, while said not to be a one-free-bite rule, comes close to the common law rule. It states that the victim only has to prove that the owner of the dog knew (or should have known) that the dog had vicious propensities. That is pretty much the same standard since the one free bite was viewed as giving the owner notice of the vicious propensities of the animal. That notice can be established by other means than an actual bite. Nevertheless, it is true that this common law is superseded by the statutory provision when applicable.

In this case, the dog would fall under any of the rules — statutory or common law. The prior reported incident would be enough to establish notice of the pit bull’s vicious propensities. The man was clearly negligent in his actions. Experts constantly warn people not to pet unknown dogs or stick your face in front of a dog’s face. A high number of dog bites, particularly with children, are on the face. One advantage of moving the case into a strict liability setting is to eliminate comparative negligence as a defense. There remains, however, assumption of the risk and in some jurisdictions comparative fault arguments that can still come into play.

As discussed previously, some towns and cities have banned pit bulls or declared them vicious due to their history and propensities. Many pit bull owners disagree and insist it is not the breed but the owners that produce vicious animals.

Source: CBS

30 thoughts on “One-Free-Bite Rule? Michigan Man Sticks Tongue Out To Tease Pit Bull . . . Pit Bull Bites Tongue Off”

  1. AY,

    I’m more concerned with the ASPCA. Especially because of the health hazard. To the dogs. We don’t know where those lyin’ pols mouths have been. But ethical? Is it less ethical to feed a pols face to a dog than it is for a pol to violate their oath of office and the law? I’m not so sure anymore.

  2. Gene:

    This demonstrates the Alligator Casimir Effect. When a human head containing a strong vacuum is placed between the plates of an alligator’s jaws, the jaws are attracted to each other.

  3. Michigan is a strict liability dog-bite state with only one defense available to the dog owner and that is provocation. No one free bite. No vicious propensity.

  4. Gene,

    I’m in agreement….. But don’t you think that PETA would complain if you used a real dog?

  5. It is too bad he did not put another part of his anatomy out so that he could be in the running for this years Darwin award. Such a guy needs to be removed from the gene pool.

  6. He had it coming, but I wonder why they didn’t kill the dog on the spot to retrieve the tongue.

  7. The man is quite frankly an idiot. When dealing with any dog, from a pit bull to a Chihuahua, prudence is a must until the dog becomes familiar with you. Certainly proffering your tongue close to a dog is stupidity if you do not know the dog. Almost all dogs are immediately friendly to me, but on occasion (especially with Chihuahuas) they will react with hostility. One either learns through the years how to deal with animals, or one gets bitten, sometimes in inconvenient places.

  8. Although not named in the report, sources say his last name is, LaBoeuf.

  9. The guy shouldn’t have gargled with steak sauce, Oh well, if you’re going to get a free bite, might as well make it good one.

  10. Can this be an assumption of risk…. Stupid… But, pit bulls are strict liability…..

  11. Aaaaaaaaah, what ever happened to ”Stupid Human Tricks” on David Letterman….? That used to be one of my favorite segments….

  12. Breed specific bans are not the way to go. Be more vigilant with dog owners. Too often dog owners get away with a 2nd or 5th attack that is relatively minor then the dog does real damage or kills someone. Nearly every “dog killing person” story I have read had indicators that the dog was violent on many prior occasions but nothing is done.

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