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A volunteer feeding his neighbor's dogs, Steve Constantine, received an award of $100 Million for his serious injuries and psychological damage experienced as a result of a dog attack. Constantine, currently undergoing psychiatric treatment in an inpatient hospital and facing 35 additional surgeries to recover from the attack, was feeding the 12 pit bulls in October of 2014 when the attack occurred. The dogs' owner, Derick Felton, saw his dogs begin to attack Constantine, but when he realized the severity of the attack, fled the area. One dog was immediately shot by police, and the remaining eleven dogs in the yard at the time of the attack were taken by local animal control personnel and later euthanized. Felton was found and arrested in March of this year, and faces charges of harboring a dangerous animal causing serious injury. As a result of the mauling, Constantine suffered the loss of his left leg below the knee, loss of most of his left arm, and loss of his left ear. 

Constantine's attorney describes the award as a mostly symbolic sum of money, since Felton is unlikely to be able to pay more than a nominal portion of the judgment. The attorney stated, "We wanted a number that got people's attention," and sought to show that such negligent behavior would no longer be tolerated.
In the state of New Jersey, dog owners are strictly liable for any injury caused by their dogs, whether the dog hurt another person by biting that person or by jumping on them and knocking them over. Strict liability is imposed upon dog owners whose dogs bite individuals that the owner has allowed on his property, or that the dog bites while in public. Thus, all a victim has to prove is that:

  1. The defendant owned the dog,
  2. The plaintiff was hurt by the dog, and
  3. The plaintiff was in a public place, or was lawfully on the defendant's private property (i.e., the victim was a guest of the defendant, or was performing a service for the defendant such as delivering the mail or reading a meter).

While previous versions of the laws surrounding dog bites in New Jersey stated that the owner had to be aware that the dog was prone to biting humans, there is no requirement that a victim make this showing under the current law. Several cities and counties in New Jersey possess breed-specific dangerous dog laws, typically indicating that pit bulls are presumed to be dangerous and are seen as threats to public safety if allowed to roam off-leash or are not properly secured on the owner's property.
Dog attacks can be terrifying and cause serious, lasting injury. If you or a loved one has experienced a dog bite or dog attack in New Jersey, contact attorneys who will seek out the compensation you deserve to make you whole. Speak with New Jersey personal injury attorneys at Smith & Doran for a consultation on your potential claim at 973-292-0016.

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