GMR Wins Summary Judgment on New York Pitbull Bite Claim

GMR Senior Counsel Jehovenn “Jev” Honculada led the team in winning summary judgment on a dog bite claim representing the owners. The plaintiff was bitten by his clients’ pit bull while delivering a mail package on the defendants’ doorstep. Jev moved for summary judgment, arguing that the defendants’ dog did not have vicious propensities. He presented defendants’ deposition testimonies saying that they kept their dog as a pet for their children to play with, not as a guard dog. He also argued that their dog had no prior incidents involving their neighbors, delivery person, or anyone else. We argued that the plaintiff could not meet its burden to show that the defendants’ dog had vicious propensities.

In opposing our motion, the plaintiff’s counsel argued that the dog had vicious propensities and that the defendants knew or should have known it. The plaintiff’s counsel cited the plaintiff’s deposition testimony that he arrived at the defendants’ front door, rang the doorbell, and put the mail package down. The defendant opened the door with the dog beside her. When the plaintiff looked up, he saw the big dog and thought the dog would sniff him. He put his left hand to the dog, and the dog bit it, and he pushed the dog with his left hand and put his right hand to the dog, and the dog bit his right hand. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that based on Mr. Weaver’s testimony of the incident, there was an issue of fact to be determined at the time of trial about the dog’s vicious propensities.

In reply to the plaintiff’s counsel’s argument, we argued that the plaintiff’s act of putting his hands in front of the dog’s face might have been construed by the dog as an aggressive act by Mr. Weaver towards the dog or the dog’s master who was next to the dog. We also noted in our reply papers that after this incident, the town’s animal control office was informed and inspected the dog and did not cite the defendants for any violation.

In the case at bar, Judge David J. Squirrell cited several case laws enumerating examples indicating the vicious propensities of a dog, such as prior attacks, growling or snapping or baring its teeth at strangers, the way the dog was restrained and a proclivity to act in a way that puts others at risk of harm.  In granting our summary judgment motion and dismissing the case, J. Squirrell held that the plaintiff’s counsel failed to raise a triable issue of fact.