Does state law define liability after an animal bite?

When it comes to animal bites, a dog is the more common culprit. In fact, a New Jersey law defines the liability that a dog owner may face after an attack. Notably, that liability attaches regardless of factors such as whether the owner should have been on notice of the dog’s perceived viciousness or prior bad behavior. Said another way, the law imposes strict liability after a dog bite, save for certain exceptions. One exception to the rule might be if the bite victim was trespassing on the owner’s property.

However, a recent story reminds us that animal bite liability can apply in other contexts, as well. Specifically, a raccoon bite is the most recent example of an animal bite incident in Somerset County, New Jersey.

According to reports, the animal attacked and bit a young child as she was recently leaving a nursery school. Authorities were able to capture the animal, and a public health laboratory confirmed that the animal had rabies. The child has undergone preventative rabies shots.

As a law firm that focuses on both animal bites and premises liability, we know that owners must take certain measures to contain their pets and prevent them from inflicting harm or biting any invited guests. Property owners must also take reasonable steps to remedy hazards on their property. In this case, it does not appear that any allegations of negligent property maintenance have been brought against the nursery, and the raccoon was apparently a wild animal, rather than a pet. Yet if the raccoon had previously been lingering around the property, a duty may have arisen for the nursery school to contact the local animal shelter or police about the animal intruder.