The so-called “one bite rule” has been around for centuries. The rule was a well-established tenet of English common law as far back as the 1600s and the principle migrated to the United States with English law after the Revolutionary War. Typically applied to encounters between humans and dogs, the rule holds the owner blameless for injuries inflicted by an animal if the owner had no prior knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensity to bite.
The rule, in most cases, gives a dog a free pass the first time the animal bites someone. After the first incident, though, the owner obviously will not be able to claim a lack of knowledge about the dog’s tendency to bite. A majority of states have either done away with the rule altogether or have adopted statutes that modify it, but at least 18 jurisdictions still adhere to the basic principle.
Does the “one bite rule” also apply to horses?
In Connecticut, at least, the answer is “yes.”
In June 2008, a child visiting a Connecticut farm with his family allegedly was bitten on the cheek by a horse. The child’s parents filed a personal injury lawsuit and the case wound up in the state Superior Court. The question was whether the “one bite rule” could be applied to insulate the owners of the farm and the horse from liability.
After some initial confusion about which horse was being blamed for the biting incidentÑthe offending horse eventually was identified as “Scuppy”Ñthe owners argued that they had neither actual nor constructive knowledge of Scuppy’s supposed “vicious prop