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Minnesota Supreme Court rules dog bite victims can sue for damages from police dogs

Author / Coordinator:  
Minnesota
February 2005

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed a decision by the state Court of Appeals allowing dog bite victims to sue for damages from police dogs. Despite the ruling, the high court sent a lawsuit against the Anoka Police Department back to the appeals court to decide the city’s claim that it is immune from such lawsuits against its police department.

If deciding the city were not immune, the appeals court would then allow a trial court to decide whether officers used reasonable force in the incident. An Anoka County judge ruled nothing in the dog bite law exempts police dogs, but the appeals court reversed that, saying failing to give police dogs special consideration would disable officers from using them.

The Supreme Court said despite any good policy reasons to exempt police dogs, the dog bite law as it currently stands does not allow exception. The high court has left it to the lower courts to resolve if the police department was legally immune, and if necessary, to decide if police used reasonable force.