Kansas has been using the “one bite rule” since 1897. A dog bite victim who is injured in Kansas must prove either that the dog owner had knowledge the dog was dangerous or that the dog owner was somehow otherwise negligent.

Even in cases where the defendant is liable, Kansas courts will apply principles of comparative fault, measuring the plaintiff’s fault (if any) against that of the defendant.

The “one bite rule” allows a person who owns a dog to assume, until there is some concrete indication to the contrary, that the dog isn’t dangerous. But an owner who knows a dog poses a particular kind of risk to people must take action to prevent the foreseeable injury – or be prepared to pay for it.

It’s true that if a dog bites someone, its owner is definitely on notice that the dog is dangerous; but less serious behavior can also trigger liability. For example, if a dog has a history of growling or snapping at people, the owner should know that the dog may cause injury. If the dog does hurt someone, the owner will be liable, even for the first bite.

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Also, if a dog has a tendency to jump up and knock others over, an owner may be liable for resulting injuries. Factors to be taken into consideration when deciding if a dog owner is liable include:

  • Previous bites. This one is pretty easy. If a dog bites once, the owner will forevermore be on notice that the dog is dangerous.
  • Growling and snapping. A dog that often growls and snaps at people who come near it when out in public, but hasn’t ever actually bitten someone. The dog’s owner is on notice that the dog might bite someone. If the dog does bite, the owner will be liable.
  • Jumping on people. The owner of a friendly, playful, and large dog, which is in the habit of jumping on house guests, will be liable if the dog knocks over an elderly friend who comes to the door one day. The owner knew that the dog behaved this way and might injure someone because of its size.
  • Frightening peopleIf a dog likes to run along the fence that separates his yard from the sidewalk barking furiously, or chases pedestrians or bicyclists, the owner may be liable if the dog causes an injury.
  • Fight trainingIf a dog has been trained to fight, a court will almost certainly conclude that the owner should have known that the dog is dangerous.
  • Prior ComplaintsIf neighbors or others have complained to the owner that a dog has threatened or bitten someone, the owner would certainly be on notice that the dog is dangerous.
  • Breed. Generally, courts don’t consider dogs of certain breeds to be inherently dangerous, but reality is that certain breeds are perceived as more dangerous and any indication of prior problems will allow liability on the owner.

In other situations an owner may be liable for their dog if the owner was negligent. Examples would include where the owner allows a dog to run after someone and that person is injured either falling from a bike or otherwise trying to flee. The ultimate question is whether the owner acted “reasonably” under the circumstances.