Monday, February 22, 2016

Judge Gray of Lycoming County Addresses Proper Allegations for Dog Bite Complaint

In his recent decision in the dog bite case of Wagner v. Teneyck, No. 15-01783 (C.P. Lycoming Co. Jan. 5, 2016 Gray, J.), Judge Richard A. Gray of the Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas denied in part and sustained in part a Defendant’s various demurrers to a Plaintiff’s Complaint in a dog bite personal injury matter.  

The court found that Complaint contained sufficient allegations for a cause of action for negligence per se for harboring a dangerous dog and failing to keep a dangerous dog under control in violation of Pennsylvania’s Dangerous Dog Law as well as the Borough of Jersey Shore Codes pertaining to dog leash laws.  

The court rejected the Defendant’s objections to the Complaint for failing to specify the provisions of the Pennsylvania Dog Law and/or the Borough of Jersey Shore Codes pertaining to dog leash laws in the content of the Complaint.  

Judge Richard A. Gray
Lycoming Co.
In this regard, Judge Gray noted that Pennsylvania is a fact-pleading jurisdiction  under which the courts are presumed to know the law such that Plaintiffs need only plead facts supporting a cause of action and that the courts will take judicial notice of any statutes involved or implicated by such allegations.   Here, the court found that the Complaint sufficiently pled that the Defendants’ harbored a dangerous dog and failed to either keep the dog within a dwelling or an enclosure or to keep the dog muzzled.  As such, the Defendants’ objections based upon a lack of form or improper form in the Complaint was overruled.  

Judge Gray did sustain the Defendants’ objection asserting that the Complaint failed to specify the alleged special damages at issue.   Judge Gray noted that Pa. R.C.P. 1019(f) required that items of special damages be specifically stated in a Complaint.  

Here, the court noted that the Complaint failed to specify the amount of past medical bills to the extent known as well as the future medical bills anticipated.  Accordingly, the Complaint was found to lack sufficient specificity under Rule 1019(f).   The Defendants’ Preliminary Objection based upon lack of specificity was therefore sustained.  

Judge Gray's Opinion in Wagner can be viewed  HERE.

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