Pets have a tendency to make their way into subrogation files. The inevitable question we ask is whether a cause of action to base recovery upon exists. In Illinois, the Illinois Animal Control Act supplements the general common law rule.
The owner or keeper of an animal is liable for injuries caused by the animal only if the injured party can prove the animal had a mischievous or dangerous propensity to commit such an injury and the owner knew about it.
Illinois adheres to the general common law rule that the owner or keeper of a domestic animal (i.e., dogs, cats, horses or other livestock) is strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal. But, wait, there’s more! The owner or keeper is liable if the plaintiff can show the animal had an uncommon, mischievous, or dangerous propensity to commit such an injury and that the owner had actual knowledge of said propensity. In other words, the animal is known to be naughty. Domm v. Hollenbeck, 259 Ill. 382, 385; 102 N.E. 782, 783 (1913); Forsyth v. Dugger, 169 Ill.App.3d 362, 523 N.E.2d 704, 707, 119 Ill. Dec. 948, 951 (4th Dist.1988).
Proving actual knowledge can be difficult for a plaintiff to establish, however, Illinois goes one step further in keeping animal owners on heightened awareness of their pets through the Illinois Animal Control Act (510 ILCS 5). Specifically, section 16 states:
If a dog or animal, without provocation, attacks or injures any person who is peaceably conducting himself in any place where he may lawfully be, the owner of such dog or other animal is liable in damages to such person for the full amount of the injury sustained.
The Illinois Animal Control Act supplements the general common law rule.
Significantly, this statute eliminates the requirement that the owner of the animal in question have prior knowledge of the vicious or dangerous propensities of the animal. Instead, the plaintiff has the burden of proving the following:
- Injury was caused by an animal owned by defendant;
- Lack of provocation;
- Peaceable conduct of the injured person; and
- The injured person being in a location they are lawfully entitled to be. Robinson v. Meadows, 203 Ill.App.3d 706, 710 (5th Dist. 1990).