Runnemede, N.J. DOG BITE LAWYER
NJ has some of the strictest dog-bite laws in the nation. NJSA 4:19-16 states that:
"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 the New Jersey Statute 4:19-16, 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.
As a result, the only thing one needs to prove in order to find a dog owner liable for a dog-bite is the following:
A. That the Defendant was the owner of the dog in question;
B. That the Plaintiff was on or in a public place, or lawfully (with permission) on or in a private place (including the property of the Defendant); and
C. That the dog bit the Plaintiff while in such a place.
NJ case law clearly states that it is irrelevant whether to dog actually broke the skin of the Plaintiff, or whether blood was drawn as a result of the bite. All that matters is whether there was a bite and whether damages were incurred as a result. DeVivo v. Anderson, 410 N.J. Super. 175 (Law Div. 2009).
Unlike many other states, NJ imposes "strict liability" on the owner of dogs who bite others. As a result, it doesn't matter if the dog had a history of viciousness, or whether the owner knew about such viciousness, such that it was foreseeable to the owner that the dog would bite others. All that matters is whether the dog, in fact, bit another person such that damages were incurred.
DEFENSES TO DOG BITE LIABILITY
Although NJ has some of the strictest dog-bite laws in the nation, Defendants nonetheless have a number of valid and potent defenses at their disposal.
A major defense arises when the Plaintiff has nobody to blame but himself, i.e., the Plaintiff's actions (and not those of the Defendant) were the primary reason why he was bitten by the dog at issue.
When making such arguments, NJ law places the burden of proof on the Defendant. Here, the Defendant has to show that the Plaintiff undertook "an unreasonable and voluntary exposure to a known risk." Budai v. Teague, 212 N.J. Super. 522 (Law Div. 1986). Here, the Defendant must show that either:
a. Plaintiff knew that the dog was vicious and/or had a history of biting, or
b.That the Plaintiff instigated and incited the animal to bite him.
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