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Massachusetts Appeals Court Considers Case Involving Injury Caused by Dog Fight

Landowners and those who own businesses can be held liable for injuries on their property in many instances. Similarly, those who own animals – dogs in particular (although not exclusively) – can also be held accountable for injuries inflicted on others under certain circumstances.

Of course, not every encounter between humans and animals will result in a finding of negligence against the owner of the dog or other animal in a Cape Cod personal injury lawsuit. It all depends upon the particular encounter and whether the pet owner’s negligence contributed to harm to the plaintiff.

In cases in which an animal’s owner is held liable for a person’s injuries from a bite or other harm, the injured individual may be entitled to substantial money damages. This can include medical expenses, lost earnings, and compensation for pain and suffering, among other things.

Facts of the Case

In a recent negligence case considered on appeal by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was a man who was injured when his dog was allegedly attacked by another dog (probably a pit bull mix). The dog was owned by a tenant of the defendant landlord. At the time of the altercation between the two animals, the plaintiff’s dog was on a leash and was running beside him as he bicycled down the street in front of the defendant’s property. The tenant’s dog was unleashed and ran out towards the plaintiff’s dog. The dogs began to fight, which in turn caused the plaintiff (who was still holding his own dog’s leash) to fall from his bike and be injured.

The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing before the trial court that he had no legal duty to protect the plaintiff from harm from a dog that he (the defendant) did not own. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s entry of summary judgment for the defendant. Phrasing the issue was “whether a landowner has a legal duty to protect passers-by from a dog kept on the landowner’s property, but owned by the landowner’s tenant,” the appellate tribunal agreed with the lower court that the defendant was entitled to summary judgment. Viewing the granting of summary judgment de novo as is appropriate under Massachusetts law, the reviewing court observed that the defendant was only entitled to judgment as a matter of law if the plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of proving an essential element of his claim if the matter proceeded to a trial.

Here, the court found that the risk of harm to a passer-by such as the plaintiff was not reasonably foreseeable to the defendant, thus negating one of the essential elements for a negligence claim. Rather, in the court’s opinion, the obligation was on the dog’s owner – rather than the defendant landlord – to handle the animal responsibly.

Schedule an Appointment with a Negligence Attorney in Cape Cod

If you, your spouse, or your child has been injured by an animal that belonged to someone else and you need to talk to an experienced dog bite attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III at 888-262-6664. We represent clients throughout the Cape Cod area, including Hyannis, Plymouth, and the surrounding area. Please be mindful that there is a limited amount of time for filing a negligence claim against a dog owner or landowner, so it is important to take prompt legal action. There is no charge for the initial consultation with us, and many cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis: we collect our fee when your case is settled (rather than expecting payment upfront).

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