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New Mexico Dog Bite Liability: Uniform Jury Instruction & Case Law

Our experienced New Mexico dog bite attorneys have a thorough understanding of the following New Mexico case law and Uniform Jury Instruction. Understanding this information is very important to those injured by dog bites, and to their attorneys.

New Mexico Uniform Jury Instruction for Dog Bite Liability

New Mexico does not have a statute on dog bite liability. However, New Mexico does have a “uniform jury instruction” which states that the owner of a dog is liable for damages directly caused by the dog if the owner knew, or should have known, that the dog was vicious or had a tendency or natural inclination to be vicious. The owner of such a dog is not liable to the person injured, if the injured person either knew that the dog had vicious tendencies or had purposefully excited the dog or voluntarily and unnecessarily put himself in the dog’s way.

Smith v. Village of Ruidoso, 994 P.2d 50 (N.M. App. 1999)

This case sets forth an exception to the Uniform Jury Instruction for Dog Bite Liability UJI 13-506 in New Mexico. The Court in this case found that the prior knowledge requirement is not a negligence instruction but a trigger for strict liability on the part of the dog owner. This means that if a dog owner knew of the dog’s dangerous propensities, the owner is strictly liable to the dog bite victim rather than merely negligent. Negligence occurs when a dog owner who has a general understanding of the way his dog behaves, fails to adequately confine his dog or prevent an injury. The Court found that negligence requires a separate jury instruction from strict liability.

This particular case involved a police dog that was kept at the home of the handling police officer. The dog was conditioned to get very excited and run to the police officer’s patrol car on command. The officer’s wife gave the command and the dog excitedly ran out an open door, onto a sidewalk, and attacked a young girl. The Court found that the jury should be given a separate instruction than UJI 13-506 to determine whether the officer had been negligent in his confinement of the dog.

Mallard v. Zink, 607 P.2d 632 (N.M. App. 1979)

The injured party must prove that the dog owner had knowledge of the dog’s prior vicious behavior. This case demonstrates that co-owners of a dog are considered one unit. As long as one co-owner has knowledge of past, vicious behavior, then liability can be transferred to the other co-owner who may be liable even if he or she does not know of the dog’s past vicious behavior.

Ortiz v. Johnson, 2013 WL 6145908 (N.M> App. 2013)

Though rare, there are times when someone other than the dog owner may be liable to a person injured by the dog. In this case, the court found that a landlord is only responsible for injuries caused by a tenant’s dog if he knew, or should have known, that (1) the dog was vicious, (2) failed to have the dog removed from the property, and (3) had control of the property. Once the landlord gives the tenant control of the property, the landlord is no longer liable for injuries caused by the tenant’s dog.


Please note, the material located on 2keller.com is for informational purposes only, is general in nature, and is not intended to and should not be relied upon as a legal opinion or legal advice regarding any specific issue or factual circumstance. Nor is this information intended to create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm. Therefore, you should consult by phone or in person with a dog bite attorney in the event that you want legal advice concerning a dog bite.

Dog Bite Checklist
What to Do if You're Attacked:

  • Seek immediate medical attention
  • Take photographs of the wounds
  • Gather information about the dog owner (name, address, phone number, insurance info)
  • Call 911 or animal control to report the incident
  • Take photographs of the dog (if it's safe to do so)
  • Contact an experienced dog bite attorney