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Mail Carrier Brings Suit for Dog Bite Case, Court Denies Defendant’s Summary Judgment Motion


This is every mail carrier’s nightmare: to have a dog attack and bite her while delivering the mail. In June 2004, the mail carrier was doing her usual rounds and was delivering mail at the house of a couple. The couple had a family dog whom she had seen in the premises. The couple lived in the house with their married daughter and their two grandchildren by her. The mail carrier presumed that since there were children around, the couple will not keep a vicious dog.

As she was delivering the mail (putting it into the mailbox), the dog ran up to her and bit her hand and wrist. The mail carrier sustained injuryin her hand from the dog bite. She sued the couple who owned the dog for keeping a vicious dog and for their negligence in allowing their vicious dog to romp around without a muzzle and without a leash. She sued for damages to be compensated for her injury resulting from the unprovoked dog attack.

The couple filed a motion for summary judgment asking that the case for damages be dismissed. Their motion is premised on the ground that they are not liable as this is the first time that their dog has bitten anyone. They claim that since this is first dog bite they have ever known about, they cannot be made liable.

The only question before the trial court is whether or not the complaint should be denied. The Court corrected the mistaken notion of the couple who thought that they cannot be made liable for the injury to the mail carrier resulting from their dog’s attack.

The Court held that even if this is the first time the couple’s dog had ever bitten anyone, they are still liable. Their dog attacked another person and the person attacked sustained injury. They are liable to compensate the injured mail carrier.

The only thing benefit that the couple can have from the fact that this is the first time their dog has bitten anyone is that their liability is not strict: that is to say, since they have not known their dog to have vicious tendencies, their liability is not strict. This does not mean that they have no liabilities whatsoever.

The Court held that there must still be a trial because there are material issues of fact that have to be determined: first, there must be a trial to determine if indeed the dog bite on the mail carrier is the first ever dog bite of their dog; second, there must be a trial to prove that the couple did not know that their dog had vicious tendencies: that he has not snapped, growled or bared its teeth to anyone in the past.

It was also interesting to the Court how the couple had put the dog to sleep after the incident. Their motivation for putting the dog down must be examined to see if it has any bearing on the facts of this case. The defendant claims that they put their dog to sleep because they do not want their grandchildren who were aged three and six to be around an animal who had bitten someone.

There is also evidence that one of the couple’s neighbors had sent them letters informing them that their dog had growled and charged at him. And the mail carrier herself testified that although the couple’s home was in her regular route, there were many times that she had failed to deliver the mail at their address because the dog was roaming the property without a leash and she felt that it was dangerous for her to set foot on the property. She testified that she had filled out a “dog warning card” regarding the dog. The dog had behaved in an aggressive manner many times over the past four years that she had been assigned to deliver the mail at that address.

The Court denied the motion for summary judgment on the ground that the mail carrier had raised material issues of fact that need to be tried.

Perhaps your job is to deliver mail or pizza and you have been attacked or bitten by a dog in one of the homes in your route. You are wondering if you have a cause of action to sue them for an injury you sustained due to a dog bite or a dog attack. You need to speak to a New York Dog Bite lawyer who can advise you on your rights. A New York City Dog Bite Lawyer can present the facts of your case and argue that the dog that attacked and bit you has vicious tendencies. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates and let their NYC Dog Bite Attorneys assist you in gathering evidence. The NY Dog Bite Attorneys can represent you so that you can be compensated for your injury.

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