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Summary Judgment to Plaintiff is Dog Bite Case Affirmed by Massachusetts Appeals Court

Those who own animals that cause serious injury to others by biting them or otherwise attacking them can be held liable for medical expenses, lost earnings, and other damages. Of course, there are some limitations on this general rule. For instance, if the bite or attack came as a result of the plaintiff provoking the animal in some manner, the owner may not be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. Often, Cape Cod dog bite cases come down to a factual dispute that must be resolved by the trier of fact. Sometimes, however, dog bite cases can be handled though the pre-trial summary judgment process.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent (unreported) case was a man who was bitten by a dog owned by the defendant. Seeking monetary compensation for serious injuries he allegedly received in the incident, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant pursuant to Massachusetts General Law ch. 140, § 155. In his suit, the plaintiff stated claims for both negligence and strict liability, alleging that, at the time that he was bitten, he was not “teasing, tormenting, or abusing” the dog but, rather, had merely leaned down to pet the animal. The defendant’s unsigned answers to interrogatories asserted that the plaintiff had awoken the dog from sleep, stepped on its tail, and swung a heavy medallion at the dog.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the plaintiff. The defendant sought reconsideration, but the trial court did not change its earlier ruling in the plaintiff’s favor. The defendant appealed.

Disposition of the Issues

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed. Beginning its discussion of the issues with the question of jurisdiction, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff’s position was that the defendant’s appeal was untimely because it was made well beyond 30 days after the trial court had entered summary judgment in his favor on the issue of liability. Insomuch as the defendant’s notice of appeal was filed within 30 days of the trial court’s final judgment – not the judgment on liability – the court found that it had appellate jurisdiction over the case. With regard to the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred in failing to consider three filings which allegedly did not comply with Rule 9A, the reviewing court found no error, noting that unsigned interrogatory answers were not admissible as evidence under Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

The parties also disagreed as to whether it was appropriate for the lower tribunal to deny a motion to reconsider made by the defendant. In ruling that the lower court had ruled appropriately on this issue, the court pointed out that the motion to reconsider was not made until five months after the partial summary judgment order on liability and was not supported by any documentation explaining the delay.

To Contact a Injury Lawyer

If you have been the victim of a dog bite, you need to talk to a lawyer about filing a claim against the animal’s owner. To schedule a free consultation with a Cape Cod dog bite injury attorney, call the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III, at 888-262-6664. Please be mindful that there is a time limit on filing such claims, so please seek legal counsel as soon as possible; otherwise, you claim made be denied on statute of limitations grounds.

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