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NJ Dog Attack/Bite Cases: Strict Liability Vs. Absolute Liability In Non-Bite Injury Cases (Part 2)

Many people are attacked and bitten by dogs in New Jersey.  No doubt, they have legal rights.  What happens when the dog does not actually bite the victim, but nevertheless causes injuries?

Part 1 of this article discussed non-bite dog attack cases and the victim's legal rights.  It also discussed "strict liability," a legal standard which holds dog owners responsible for the victims' injuries caused by their dogs in dog bite cases and non-bite dog attacks.

Absolute Liability

Though strict liability is the legal standard pertaining to dog owners' liability in NJ dog attack and non-bite attack cases, the most recent New Jersey cases involving dog attacks/bites refer to the dog owners' liability as "absolute liability." 

Absolute liability is essentially the same as strict liability. 

The most recent NJ case addressing absolute liability in non-bite dog attack cases is the 2013 Appellate Division Court case of Conrad v. Catapano.

In Conrad, the victim was with her dog at a doggie play date.  The victim was injured when a dog ran into her during the play date.  There was evidence at trial that the dog became excited or hyper during play dates, and the dog owner knew of that propensity. 

The court provided:

Significantly for the present case, we have held that scienter can exist where a dog owner is aware of his dog's overly aggressive actions that are exhibited not only in anger, but also in play...An owner's knowledge of his dog's "overly demonstrative affection or playfulness with a propensity for enthusiastically jumping up on visitors" is sufficient to establish scienter...This rule is also applicable in the situation where "the animal is not vicious but has a dangerous tendency that is unusual and not necessary for the purposes for which such animals are usually kept."

Therefore, if dog owners are aware that their dogs get overly excited, chase joggers and/or jump on people, they may be held responsible if their dogs cause injuries to others due to their hyper propensity.

For example, a dog owner may be responsible for injuries caused by his dog as a result of the dog jumping on an individual.  A mail carrier delivers a package to a home and rings the doorbell.  The home owner has a dog that becomes very excited when someone is at the door.  The dog often lunges and jumps on people.   Despite knowing this, the owner does not restrain the dog and opens the door.  The dog lunges at the mail carrier and knocks him down.   The mail carrier fractures his wrist as a result of trying to break his fall. 

In this situation, the owner may be held responsible under absolute liability even though his dog did not actually bite the delivery person.

Related: U.S. Postal Carriers Attacked By Dogs|PA Dog Bite Injury Lawyer

Help After A Non-Bite Dog Attack In New Jersey

If you were injured in a non-bite dog attack in New Jersey, you may have legal rights.  Call Daniel J. O'Brien, a seasoned dog bite injury lawyer, to discuss your potential case. Mr. O'Brien always offers FREE initial consultations. 877.944.8396

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