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Can a Dog’s Seller or Trainer’s Be Sued After They Sold or Trained a Dog in New Jersey?

Every day in New Jersey someone is getting bit by a dog.  The owner of the dog usually tries to protect their dog as they would another family member.  For that reason, they try to blame the victim’s conduct or just ignore their own conduct by not keeping the dog on a leash.

What happens when a dog breeder/trainer sells a dog to a family and that same dog bites and severely injures a minor child whose parents now own that very same dog?

The New Jersey Appellate Division just answered that question in a New Jersey case called Frank  Barkosky, III et al vs. Weber’s Training School et al.

On January 4, 2020, Frank Barkosky adopted a dog for his family that was trained for 10 months by defendant Weber’s Dog Training School. Sadly, just two days after the dog was adopted, the dog attacked and bit the dog owner’s minor child.

The father, whose family owned the dog, sued the training school and its owner alleging negligence, misrepresentation, and violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 to -227. The father on behalf of the child bit by the dog  also claimed defendants falsely represented to them the dog was good with children and adults and that Blaze’s previous owners had children.” They further alleged the defendants were aware that “Blaze had previously exhibited dangerous behavior” that the trainers intentionally failed to disclose Blaze’s “vicious propensities” and that they “had not given Blaze a professional temperament test.”

The Defendant training school and its owner then sued the father in a counterclaim under the NJ Dog Bite Statute, N.J.S.A. 4:19-16.  The New Jersey Dog Bite statute states:

The owner of any dog which shall bite a person while such person is on or in a public place, or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, shall be liable for such damages as may be suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of such dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.

New Jersey Dog Bite Laws

The New Jersey Dog Bite Statute is a Strict Liability statute which means if the elements in the statute are met, the dog owner is liable.  The plaintiffs sought to dismiss the counterclaim under the doctrine of parental immunity which generally immunizes parents from claims brought by children unless their actions were willful or wanton.  The Appellate Division agreed with the defendants that the injured child’s parents could be liable as the owners of the dog that bit the plaintiff.  The court sent the case back to the trial court where it is currently pending.  So, now the child’s parents are defendants as well.

The court is basically saying that the parents should have the same responsibility as the owner of the dog as would an unrelated third party who owned a vicious dog.  The problem here is that most homeowner policies exclude resident family members from coverage to pay homeowner claims to other resident family members.

From a lawyer’s point of view, if this case ever goes to trial the defendant’s tactics may backfire in that it may inflame the jury against the dog trainer lawyers and seller for bringing the parents into the lawsuit.

The bottom line is dog bite cases are not necessarily easy cases. It’s best to hire a lawyer skilled in filing suit and suing dog owners for their dog bites.  These cases can have a high value, but there are a lot of dog owners and dog lovers out there, so jury selection is key.

Some other advice is that after the attack, it is best to make a police report so that the police identify the dog owner and can follow up on the animal’s veterinarian records.  Photos should be taken of the bite mark daily. All medical bills should be saved as part of the claim and should be provided to the best dog bite lawyer you can hire to sue on your behalf.

Talk to Our Experienced Dog Bite Lawyers in New Jersey and New York Today

The New Jersey and New York injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. have for decades represented adults and children attacked or bitten by dogs and have won settlements and trials for their clients who often suffer scars and injuries to their faces. These cases are handled on a percentage contingency fee which is usually 1/3 of the settlement or at a reduced legal fee of 25% for children attached by dogs.  If for some reason the case is lost, then the attorneys are not entitled to a legal fee for their services.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a dog bite in New Jersey or New York, contact our experienced dog bite lawyers today for a free consultation.

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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.