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NJ: Small Dog Has Big Bite, Yet Subrogation Claim Fails Since Recovery Could Have Been Had Under State’s No-Fault Auto Law

November 15, 2013 (2 min read)

In an unpublished decision, a New Jersey court recently held that a workers’ compensation insurer was not entitled to pursue a subrogation claim for $900 in medical bills associated with injuries a police officer sustained when he was bitten on the hand by a Chihuahua sitting in the lap of a driver whose vehicle the officer had stopped for an alleged moving violation. The officer had asked the defendant driver for his driving credentials and when the officer reached into the vehicle to receive them from the driver, the little dog bit the officer on the hand, leaving three puncture wounds. The trial judge held the insurer did not have a cognizable claim because the officer could have recovered his medical expenses from his own automobile insurance carrier under the policy’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. The appellate court agreed. The court indicated that to trigger PIP coverage, there must be a “substantial nexus between the accident and the use of an automobile.” The appellate court said that it was “indisputably foreseeable that a dog is capable of biting someone who approaches a car, with its driver-side window open, while the dog is being held on the lap of the driver, within a foot or two of the person standing on the outside of the vehicle.”

Reported by Thomas A. Robinson, J.D.

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance. Bracketed citations link to

See New Jersey Intergovernmental Ins. Fund v. Sarokis, 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2671 (Nov. 4, 2013) [2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 2671 (Nov. 4, 2013)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 117.01 [117.04]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.



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