New Jersey

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JACQUELINE CONRAD, Plaintiff–Appellant, v. SUSAN CATAPANO and JIM CATAPANO, Defendants–Respondents


Plaintiff was injured by defendants' dog after being knocked to the ground. The plaintiff had her dog over to defendants' house for a "doggie play date" and the dogs were running off-leash in the fenced yard.The lower court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims of negligence and absolute liability, finding that the defendants had not prior knowledge of the dog's propensity to run into people. The Court found that there were genuine issues of material fact as to defendants' prior knowledge of the dog's proclivities to become "hyper" in the presence of other dogs. Thus, the decision to grant summary judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for trial. Notably, the Court did state that it shared "the motion judge's observation that plaintiff may well be comparatively at fault here for choosing to stand in the backyard while the three unleashed dogs ran around."

In the Matter of Kerlin


Respondent Raymond Kerlin, D.V.M., appealed a decision of the Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Consumer Affairs, Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (Board), finding him guilty of "gross malpractice or gross neglect" in the practice of veterinary medicine after an employee at his office (his wife) stated that the office could not treat a deathly ill kitten after the owners requested payment by credit (apparently not accepted at the office).  In this case, the court observed nothing in the findings of facts to support a conclusion that respondent was aware of the exchange which occurred between the kitten’s owner and Mrs. Kerlin in time for him to have prevented the situation or to have taken remedial steps. Nothing adduced at trial proved that Dr. Kerlin followed the policy of rejecting requests for emergency treatment on credit. Thus, the court concluded that the State failed to establish that respondent was guilty of a violation or of conduct warranting disciplinary action for "gross malpractice", and the decision of the Board was reversed. 

In re Tavalario


This appeal presents a challenge by Anthony Tavalario to the manner in which the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC) determines whether keeping horses on property constitutes a "commercial" agricultural operation that exempts the property from local zoning and other land use restrictions as the result of the preemptive force of the Right to Farm Act, N.J.S.A. 4:1C-1 to -10.4. The SADC found that Tavalario's use of the land did not qualify for protection under the Act, because he could not demonstrate that, as of July 3, 1998, his operation produced "agricultural or horticultural products worth $2,500 or more annually" as required by the definitional section of the Act. Tavalario contends on appeal that the SADC erred because it failed to consider as income in 1998 uncollected stud fees, the imputed value of a horse sold as a broodmare in 2002 for $8,000 and another horse sold in 2003 for $5,400, and race winnings of an undisclosed amount allegedly awarded at an unspecified time after 1998. The court found no grounds for reversal of the SADC's interpretation of the production requirements of the definition of "commercial farm" found in N.J.S.A. 4:1C-3 or its application to Tavalario's case.

In re New Jersey Pinelands Com'n Resolution


This case concerns the approval of a settlement agreement for a residential development project that contained habitat critical to the survival of a local population of timber rattlesnakes, an endangered species in New Jersey.  The court's review of the record found that there is no reason to interfere with the determination by the Commission, since there was ample evidence to support the Commission's decision to approve the settlement.  The court also agreed with the lower court that the environmental organizations lacked standing to bring an endangered species counterclaim before the lower court.  Specifically, the court found that the Department of Environmental Protection and the Commission did not fail to act in implementing the endangered species act; thus, no standing was conferred upon the groups.  The court also noted that the DEP and the Commission acted in their requisite complementary roles in effecting the Act.

Hyland v. Borras


Plaintiff Heather Hyland brought this action for damages after defendants' dog, an American bulldog, trespassed onto plaintiff's property and attacked her ten year old shih tzu, causing serious injuries to the dog.  Defendants appeal the award of "repair costs" ($2,500) in excess of the dog's market value or "replacement cost" ($500).  In upholding the award, the court distinguished companion animals from other personal property, finding that market value fails to take into account the owner's relationship to the animal. 

Houseman v. Dare


An engaged, live-in couple purchased a dog together and listed both of their names on the American Kennel Club registration.  While speaking to his girlfriend about ending the relationship, the boyfriend promised her that she could keep the dog, but failed to fulfill that promise; the court required specific enforcement of that promise. In addition, the court found that dogs possess special subjective value similar to "heirlooms, family treasures, and works of art."

Harabes v. Barkery, Inc.


Plaintiffs claim their pet dog, Gabby, died of medical complications after she was negligently subjected to extreme heat for an extended period of time at The Barkery, a dog grooming business.  The Court observed that there is no New Jersey precedent permitting a pet owner to recover non-economic damages when a pet is negligently injured or killed; therefore, the court looked policy and rationale which underlies similar cases in this and other jurisdictions.  The Court concluded that the difficulty in quantifying the emotional value of a companion pet and the risk that a negligent tortfeasor will be exposed to extraordinary and unrealistic damage claims weighed against allowing damages.  Most significantly, the court found that public policy mitigated against allowing emotional distress and loss of companionship damages, which are unavailable for the loss of a child or spouse, for the loss of a pet dog.

Goldman v. Critter Control of New Jersey Plaintiff, Stuart Goldman, was the former chief humane law enforcement officer for the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Plaintiff alleged that in May of 2015, he learned from a resident of Matawan that Critter Control of New Jersey had trapped a female adult raccoon and removed it from the roof of a house. A few days later, baby raccoons were found in the gutters of that same house. Those baby raccoons allegedly went without sustenance for a week. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Critter Control for violation of New Jersey law. The case was dismissed with prejudice and the court stated that the statute only provided for organizations to seek a civil remedy under the New Jersey statute and that Plaintiff had brought his complaint in his individual capacity and, therefore, lacked standing. Plaintiff had also filed a second case in which the he alleged that Simplicity Farms was mistreating horses. This was ultimately dismissed by the trial court. Plaintiff appealed both cases which were ultimately consolidated on appeal. Plaintiff contended on appeal that he had standing to sue in the name on Monmouth SPCA as a qui tam action and that the court erred by not granting his motion for reconsideration to allow him to amend the complaint with the proper caption. Plaintiff also contended that his complaint against Simplicity Farms should not have been dismissed. Plaintiff argued that the N.J.S.A. 4:22-26 authorized qui tam suits because it provided that “any person in the name of the New Jersey [SPCA] or county SPCA can sue for civil penalties.” Based on the legislative history and the amendments to the PCAA, the Court concluded that the PCAA did not authorize qui tam lawsuits as the Plaintiff contended. The Court found no misapplication of discretion by the trial court denying Plaintiff’s motions to amend his complaints because the amendments would have been futile in light of his lack of standing. The Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
Gerofsky v. Passaic County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals


The President of the New Jersey SPCA brought an action to have several county SPCA certificates of authority revoked.  The county SPCAs brought a counterclaim alleging the revocation was beyond the state SPCA's statutory authority.  The trial court revoked one county's certificate of authority, but the Court of Appeals held the revocation was an abuse of discretion.

Eyrich v. Earl


In this New York, the neighbors of a five-year-old child who was mauled to death by a leopard that was at a circus held on school property filed suit against the operators of the circus seeking compensation for emotional damages. On defendants' appeal, this court held that defendants were strictly liable to plaintiffs. The court first began with the proposition that wild animals are presumed to have a dangerous propensity and the keepers of such have been held strictly liable. Using a products liability analogy, the court found that as a matter of public policy, it would be 'unthinkable' to refuse to insulate individuals who put a defective car on the road and 'then tell one injured by a wild beast that he has no claim against those who put that beast on the road.' The judgment was affirmed.

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