Legality of Pit Bull Bite During House Appraisal

Patricia Ward v, Brigida Ochoa, Noe Gonzalez, Land Safe Appraisals, INC. and Bank of
America and Century 21 Worden & Green and Ken Song

Submitted by New Jersey Personal Injury Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

On October 3, 2014, Ward (plaintiff) was going to appraise Ochoa’s house. When plaintiff arrived Ochoa informed her that her two dogs were crated in the kitchen. Ward did not feel in danger at the time since the dogs could not get to her. Plaintiff eventually went into a bedroom and saw a third dog who was old and barely moved when she opened the door. Plaintiff testified at her deposition that she was not threatened at the time nor did she request any of the dogs be removed. The inspection went forty minutes without the incident. Ward proceeded to get pictures of the back of the house. On her way to leave she noticed the pitbulls were out of their cage and one of them charged at her at the foot of the driveway. Plaintiff was repeatedly attacked which resulted in her sustaining a fractured radius and nerve damage.

Song and Century 21 both contend that they followed their internal policy which is called “open house don’t list.” Both dogs were restrained and crated at the time of plaintiff’s arrival. Ward never had a written agreement with Century 21 or Song since she was employed by P&R Appraisals, LLC. Her company had no policies or protocols applicable to appraising a residence when dogs were present. Song and Century 21 filed for summary judgment arguing that their alleged acts or omissions were not a proximate cause of damage to plaintiff. They did not owe any duty to her. The judge found that there was no negligence claim because no duty of care existed between the parties. Ward argues that Song and Century 21 owed her a duty to remove the pitbulls, breached that duty, and caused her injuries. Plaintiff creates two theories of negligence

  1. there was an apparent and foreseeable risk since there were pitbulls in the house and
  2. the dogs were not removed and that was a policy that Song and Century 21 did not abide by.

The Appellate Court countered her arguments by stating, ” Ward was injured as a result of her employment with P & R. The record is devoid of any evidence to suggest that Ward was a “customer” of Century 21 or Song. Consequently, there was no legal relationship between the parties, and no privity of contract.” The appellate court affirmed the judge’s decision for summary judgment.

SO what does that mean, no privity of contract? Ward was not a customer of Century 21; a prospective purchaser of the home. She was an employee of another company performing her job duties as the appraiser for a bank. While in the course of her employ she was injured. her conduct was part of her job, and as such, she surely would be entitled to workers compensation coverage from her employer. However, because there is no relationship as customer or buyer coming to look at the property to purchase same, she did not have any relationship as an invitee of the real estate company. Without any relationship recognized by law, Century 21 could not owe her any duty! Remember, as I have stated in my negligence blogs, in order to be successful in a negligence case the plaintiff my prove DUTY, BREACH, CAUSATION, AND DAMAGES. Without any relationship between the parties, there is no duty to govern the party’s conduct; and hence no ability for one party to be negligent!! This is the basis of the trial court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint and the appellate court’s affirmation of same.

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

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Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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