Friday, August 19, 2022

Allegations of Recklessness and Claims of Punitive Damages Allowed to Proceed in a Dog Bite Case

In the case of Walsh v. Toth, No. 22-CV-96 (C.P. Lacka. Co. June 28, 2022 Nealon, J.), the court addressed Preliminary Objections in the form of a demurrer asserted by dog owners in a case in which the Plaintiff alleged that she was attacked and injured by her neighbors’ dog when she [the Plaintiff] opened the side door of her home.

The Plaintiff filed a Complaint seeking compensatory damages along with punitive damages as a result of the Defendant’s alleged negligence and recklessness.

More specifically, the Plaintiff asserted that the dog owners knew of the “dangerous, aggressive, and fearsome” dog’s “dangerous propensities” prior to the incident. 

The Plaintiff also alleged that the dog owners were aware of other neighbors’ concerns regarding the dog. 

The Plaintiff additionally asserted that the owners of the dog negligently and recklessness permitted the dog to run unattended and unleashed throughout the neighborhood with reckless disregard for others. 

The Plaintiff also alleged that the Defendants violated certain provisions of the Dog Law, in part, by failing to keep the dog confined or firmly secured within the dog owner’s premises and/or by harboring a dangerous dog with a propensity to attack people without provocation. 

In this decision, Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas ruled that the Plaintiff’s claims under the Dog Law were permissible. The court additionally noted that, viewing the Complaint as a whole, the Plaintiff had provided the dog owners with adequate notice of the claims against which the Defendants must defend.

Furthermore, Judge Nealon ruled, as he has on numerous previous occasions, that, since the allegations of recklessness may be averred generally under Pa. R.C.P. 1019(b), and given that the related request for punitive damages is not a “cause of action” subject to the factual specificity requirements in Pa.R.C.P. 1019(a), the Defendant dog owners were not entitled to have the recklessness allegations and the demand for punitive damages stricken.

As such, the court overruled the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

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