If a dog bites the groomer, can the dog owner be sued?
Angela Carpentiero v. The Estate Of Jane Pocknett
Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
Is a dog groomer an employee or independent contractor? If a dog bites the groomer, can
the dog owner be sued? Is his a liability claim or a workers compensation claim?
Angela Carpentiero (plaintiff) was a part-time groomer at Katie’s Pet Depot when
she suffered a dog bite to her face while in he course of her employment, on March 16,
2012. Plaintiff filed a two-count complaint:
- negligence claim and
- strict liability claim.
Plaintiff testified and stated she was a part time employee at Katie’s Pet Depot. She also
stated if she knew that the dog was old and had arthritis, plaintiff would have put a
muzzle on the dog. At the end of discovery, defendant filed a motion for summary
judgment. The judge granted the motion on the strict liability claim and denied the
motion on the common law negligence claim. The judge found plaintiff to be an
independent contractor as opposed to an employee. The judge held that status
(independent contractor) qualified as an exception to the imposition of strict liability.
On November 28, 2016, on a motion before the trial judge, the court dismissed
the common law negligence count. The judge determines that the defendant did not have
an affirmative duty which was violated; they had no duty to disclose information about
the age of the dog. Also the issues about the dog’s age and medical condition(s) were
speculation and was not a direct cause to the incident. The judge entered an order
dismissing the complaint and the plaintiff appeals.
The plaintiff argued on appeal that:
- The trial court erred in granting defendant’s
motion for summary judgment on the issue of strict liability under the dog bite statue as
the only case relied upon by defendant, and
- the trial court erred in dismissing plaintiff’s complaint as it relates to common law negligence.
The Appellate Court counters her first argument and states, “as she acknowledged implicitly during her deposition, she could have muzzled the dog as a precautionary measure but did not. The court concluded, “there was no proof that defendant was aware of a dangerous propensity of her dog, which she intentionally or negligently concealed”. This failure of proof, coupled with plaintiff’s status, cause the judge to properly apply the exception. The Appellate Court dismissed plaintiff’s second argument finding, “the trial judge dismissed the common law negligence count after ruling that the issue of duty was a question of law and not a question of fact. We agree as the determination of the existence of a duty is a question of law for the court. Predicated upon the uncontested facts from the discovery record: that the dog was old, but not that it had a propensity to bite, the judge held that defendant owed no duty to plaintiff as a matter of law. The second judge properly exercised discretion in reevaluating the legal issue. ” The Appellate Court affirms the judge’s decision.
Here at Hark&Hark Law Office we have experience dealing with dog bite cases. Mr.
Hark has dealt with this issue throughout his time as an attorney and has been very
successful with these specific cases. Mr. Hark has dealt with both minors and adults being
bit. If you have been attacked by a dog please contact Hark&Hark Law Office as soon as
you can. Call us at (866) 427-5529 or email us with any types of questions you may have
or visit our website at rcriminalcivil.wpengine.com.