New Jersey has a very clear and concise statute when it comes to determining the liability in a dog bite case. The law 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.
HISTORICAL AND STATUTORY NOTES
1998 Main Volume
Source: L.1933, c. 427, § 1, p. 1147.
$500k dog bite settlement sheds light on victim-friendly laws in N.J.By
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on February 02, 2013 at 8:52 AM, updated February 02, 2013 at 9:44 AM.As he walked out of his office around 5:30 that July morning, Samuel Akinsanya heard growling in the hallway. A Rottweiler and pit bull had escaped from a cage in the Elizabeth factory where he worked the overnight shift as a security guard. Before Akinsanya could react, the dogs pounced.
“They jumped at me. I was trying to fight. I was trying to defend myself but they were biting me all over my body,” Akinsanya, 43, said in a phone interview Friday. He said he fought the animals “for almost an hour before police came to rescue me.”
The attack, which occurred in 2010, was so vicious that Akinsanya, who lives in Newark, was left in a coma-like state, intubated in a hospital bed, for 10 days. He was bitten over most of his body, and suffered muscle damage and permanent scarring.
The pit bull choked itself to death because it was thrashing around so much when police tried to subdue the dog. The Rottweiler was eventually returned to its owner.
Akinsanya sued the owner of the dogs and the building’s landlord. An arbitrator eventually awarded him $563,000 in damages which, according to Akinsanya’s attorney, is one of the largest settlements related to a dog bite in New Jersey, where the liability laws governing dog bites are becoming more favorable toward victims.
“Years ago, you would have to prove that the dog bit someone else previously and that the owner knew that he had a propensity to bite,” said the attorney, Frank M. Smith. “Now you have strict liability which is as favorable as things get and for good reason. Dogs are completely unpredictable and owners should be responsible for whatever happens.”
The settlement is unique for both the amount of the award as well as the distribution of fault.
The owner of the dogs, Jose Acosta, who kept them in a chain link enclosure inside the factory, was found liable for 85 percent of the damages but the building’s landlord was also found liable and ordered to pay 15 percent of the damages.
In New Jersey, a landlord can be held liable if he fails to warn those inside his building that dangerous dogs are present or if he does not make the premise safe for those he hires to work onsite, such as security guards, Smith said.
New Jersey is among the majority of states where a dog owner is liable for damages inflicted on a bite victim even if the dog has never exhibited biting tendencies.
To recover damages, a victim must prove the defendant owned the dog, that the dog bit the plaintiff and that the plaintiff was in a public place or lawfully on the owner’s property. The statute does not apply to trespassing or to victims who provoke animals.
But the rules on who can file a lawsuit may get even more lenient. A recent appellate court decision expanded the law to include certain dog walkers or dog sitters who are bitten.
For Akinsanya, the security guard who was attacked, the settlement helped pay for his medical bills and to support his wife and children in Nigeria. He was out of work for six months after the attack and still struggles with muscle function and losing feeling in his arms.
“After this experience never in my life can I be near a dog,” Akinsanya said. “If I see a dog coming I go another way.”
If you are someone you know has been injured as a result of a dog bite, call Aretsky and Aretsky, Attorneys at Law. There is no cost for the consultation, and if we take your case, there is no cost to you until you have received a check settling the case.
ARETSKY & ARETSKY
Attorneys at Law
Hackensack - Just off Route 4
3 University Plaza Drive
Hackensack, N.J. 07601