Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Leash That Puppy: Violation of Dog Law Amounts To Negligence Per Se, But Plaintiff Must Still Prove Causation

In the case of Goodell v. Stroble, No. 22-00906 (C.P. Lyc. Co. July 26, 2023 Carlucci, J.), the court granted in part and denied in part a Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment in a dog bite case.

According to the Opinion, the Defendant dog owner attended an estate sale. The subject incident occurred when the Defendant was putting her purchases in her vehicle and her dog jumped out of the vehicle and allegedly attacked the nearby Plaintiff.

The Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the Defendant’s failure to restrain her dog on a leash or within the vehicle violated the Dog Law, making the Defendant negligent as a matter of law on a negligence per se basis.

While the court agreed that Pennsylvania law requires owners to control their dogs and that a deliberate violation of the Dog Law does constitute negligence per se, claims of absolute liability as a result can still be defended if a Defendant provides an appropriate defense.

In this regard, the court noted that there still remained the crucial question as to whether or not the dog owner’s negligence was the proximate cause of the Plaintiff’s injuries. The court explained that proximate cause refers to a direct link between a Defendant’s actions and a Plaintiff’s harm.

The court emphasized that the question of proximate cause generally remains a question to be decided by a jury.

As such, the court granted the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment in part and denied it in part. More specifically, the court ruled that the Defendant’s conduct in this case was negligent per se under the Dog Law violation. However, the motion was denied in part on the question of proximate causation.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Aug. 15, 2023).

Source of image:  Photo by Blue Bird on www.pexels.com.

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