In New Jersey, a recent dog bite injury case resulted in a six-figure settlement for the plaintiff; an arbitrator awarded the victim over $560,000 in damages. The settlement may be one of the largest in the state’s history for a personal injury case involving a dog bite. For the 43-year-old victim, what had started as an average night working as a security guard transformed into a nightmare that left him struggling to survive. The night of the attack, two dogs—a pit bull and a Rottweiler—escaped their chain link enclosure and inflicted bites over the majority of the man’s body. The dog bites were so severe that the man was left, according to the article, in a “coma-like state, intubated in a hospital bed, for 10 days… suffer(ing) muscle damage and permanent scarring.”
The news article includes a discussion about New Jersey laws specific to dog bite injury lawsuits. Some of the highlights of the statute include:
- An employer owes a duty to warn employees of a dangerous dog within the premises, and to make conditions safe for the employee. This rule also applies to independent contractors, as stated in a recent court of Appeals case dealing with a part-time dog-sitter who was bitten.
- Any landlord whose premises is open to the public—or otherwise legally on the property—will be liable for any dog bites on the premises. This is true regardless of the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s previous reputation as a non-violent animal.
- The defendant can rebut the strict liability by showing evidence that the plaintiff provoked the dog, or that the plaintiff was actually trespassing on the property.
For anyone interested in reading the statute in its entirerty, N.J.S.A. 4:19-16 says:
“The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
For the purpose of this section, a person is lawfully upon the private property of such owner when he is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon him by the laws of this state or the laws or postal regulations of the United States, or when he is on such property upon the invitation, express or implied, of the owner thereof.”
Dog bite injuries can leave permanent emotional and physical scars. If you believe that you were legally on the premises where the injury took place, you ought to know your legal rights to compensatory and special damages from the dog owner and the location’s landlord.