Contributory negligence may bar recovery under a "dog bite" statute.
A jury awarded $ 300,000 in damages to a meter reader for injuries she sustained as a result of a dog bite she suffered from a German Shepherd owned by defendant Rossi while reading a gas meter at the dog owner's home. The jury apportioned fault at sixty-five percent (65%) for the dog owner and thirty-five percent (35%) for the employer. The trial court denied the dog owner's motion for a new trial as to damages, but granted a new trial as to liability, permitting the dog owner to present evidence of the meter reader's comparative liability.
Was the trial court action correct?
The court held that defendant dog owner was strictly liable for plaintiff's injuries because plaintiff was bitten by defendant's dog while lawfully on the property. Defendant dog owner was not entitled to present evidence of plaintiff's comparative negligence because plaintiff did not voluntarily expose herself to a known risk. Finally, the court held that defendant dog owner was entitled to a new trial as to damages because the trial court admitted evidence of prior incidents involving the dog. This had the potential of inflaming the jury and could have had an effect on the damages verdict.