Under Florida law, dog guardians are strictly liable for damages their dogs inflict by biting a person in a public place or lawfully in a private place. A person is lawfully on or in a private property if the person is on such property upon invitation, expressed or implied, of the owner.” A dog’s guardian can escape Florida strict liability for dog bites by posting a visible and easily readable sign that includes the phrase “bad dog,” unless a victim is a child under the age of 6 or the property owner assures a visitor that he or she may ignore the sign.
Although the Florida law imposes strict liability on dog guardians, i.e., dog bite victims do not need to prove the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness, the dog owner’s liability may be reduced by the percentage of the victim’s fault in causing the biting incident, such as when the victim disregards the sign and enters the property, or kicks, teases, or provokes the dog.
Furthermore, dog bites victims in Florida are not limited to actions under the strict liability statutes. They may also sue the dog guardian under common law theories of liability – strict liability, negligence, negligence per se, or intentional tort.
Finally, not only dog guardians may be liable for their dogs’ bites. A landlord may be held liable as well if the landlord is aware of the dog’s viciousness or fails to enforce the “no dog” clause in the lease agreement.