We contained our dog in the attached-to-the-house garage. The pizza guy (came in an UNMARKED car) instead of walking up the walkway to the front door like others always do... went to our garage window, set the pizza down on the ground, looked into the garage door window, then opened the door! He let the dog loose, and the dog went after his butt and bit him. He closed the door with the dog outside and he (delivery guy) inside our garage. I heard things falling in the garage. My husband went to investigate and it's the pizza guy inside and the dog and the food outside the garage door! Does the pizza guy have the right to enter a home/garage (even if unlocked) without being invited? Also, I did NOT give instructions to "enter through garage. " Are we legally responsible for his bite?
In New York, the owner is strictly liable for a dog that bites another if the owner knew or should have known of the dog's "vicious propensities." If your dog has not shown vicious propensities in the past, and you have never had problems with your dog doing anything dangerous to anyone else, the case is likely defensible.
Either way, you need to notify your insurance carrier so they can investigate and provide a defense in the event you are sued.
I would consult with your insurance company right away so they can begin protecting your rights. The answer will likely depend on your local laws. Here in Nevada the analysis would be whether he was invited or not, whether his actions were reasonable (in opening the garage door), whether he had any indication there was a dog in the garage, whether the alternate access you talk about (walkway) was easily accessible or whether it was more difficult to reach, and whether he had been to your premises before and knew of the dog. There are obviously many other issues, but these would be the first questions I would want to know. My initial inclination is that you would NOT be responsible because the delivery guy's actions were unreasonable in opening the garage.
You are strictly liable for a dog that has known or inferrable vicious propensities. Your pizza guy was an invitee, not a trespasser, at least initially. His "case" begins to deteriorate when he opened the garage door, which causes wrinkles. Fortunately, you promptly notified your home insurance carrier to avoid any disclaimer for late notice, and let them handle this. That's why you've been paying all those insurance premiums all those years!
First, notify your homeowner's insurance carrier. They will handle the matter in your defense. As an aside, and solely based on your scenario, it would appear that there is a strong argument to be made that the delivery boy bears a significant percentage of culpability for this event. It is one thing for him to be attacked while on your property but in the open. It is another for him to enter inside a portion of the premises uninvited. In any event, this type of incident will be covered under your homeowner's policy.
When you ordered the pizza you invited the delivery person to your home. I he or she wants sure what door was for the house then they can knock etc but they cannot just enter without being invited in. You are liable for your dog if the dog had a known vicious propensity. Why was the dog in the garage in the first place? Is this a guard dog or attack dog? If so, then it propensity is known and you may have a duty to warn of its presence. The facts o your question make it unlikely that the delivery person will succeed with a case. Notify your homeowners carrier.
I suggest you advise your homeowners insurance carrier about this incident.
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Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
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