Monday, February 3, 2020

Dog Bite Complaint Cleaned Up by Judge Williamson of Monroe County

Proving that a judge’s bite is sometimes worse than a dog’s bite, the court granted several Preliminary Objections to a Plaintiff’s dog bite Complaint in the case of MR v. Bunting, No. 6856-Civil-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. Nov. 22, 2019 Williamson, J.).

Judge David J. Williamson of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas granted a demurrer to a paragraph in the Plaintiff’s Complaint that mentioned a duty to maintain insurance. The court granted that demurrer and struck that allegation after finding that there is no requirement to provide insurance or any duty to do so under Pennsylvania law. 

The court also rejected a claim by the Plaintiff that the Defendants owed a duty not to own, harbor and/or keep a dog with violent and aggressive past behavior and tendency. The court noted that there was no basis in Pennsylvania law to support such a claim as Defendants cannot be negligent merely for owning a dog with past violent or aggressive behavior. As such, this allegation of the Complaint was dismissed. 

Judge Williamson also struck allegations of negligence per se stated in the Complaint which were based upon certain sections of the Pennsylvania dog law. The court noted that the sections cited by the Plaintiff dealt with registration and responsibility for a dog found to be a dangerous animal within the meaning of the dog law. However, the court found that the Plaintiffs did not allege that the Defendants’ dog was a dangerous animal within the meaning of the particular provisions of the statute. As such, there could be no negligence per se claim under the dog law under the particular Complaint. 

The court also struck the Plaintiff’s allegations for premises liability since the allegations of the Complaint confirmed that the Plaintiff was claiming that the injury arose from a dog bite and not from any claimed defeat in the condition of the land possessed by the Defendants. 

Judge Williamson also struck various references in the Complaint in which the Plaintiff had claimed certain types of liability with “including but not limited” language. The court found that the use of this phrase violated the law set forth in Connor v. Allegheny General Hospital, 461 A.2d 600 (Pa. 1983). 

The court also struck the Plaintiff’s claim for attorney’s fees as there was no statutory authority or contractual language to support the same. 

Judge Williamson struck the Plaintiff’s request for damages for interest. The court noted that, under Pennsylvania law, such a claim is not allowed in tort actions in which damages sought are unliquidated as they were in this particular case. 

The court did overrule an objection to the Plaintiff’s claim for punitive damages and allowed that case to proceed into discovery in order to afford the Plaintiff an opportunity to gather facts to support such claims. 

Although the courts struck many allegations from the Plaintiff’s Complaint, the case was allowed to proceed on certain other claims. 

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.
Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Jan. 7, 2020).

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