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Petersen v. Tolstow

Decided: March 12, 1982.

PATRICIA E. PETERSEN, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS GUARDIAN AD LITEM OF DENISE MARIE PETERSEN, AN INFANT MINOR, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RUSSELL TOLSTOW AND MYRA TOLSTOW, HIS WIFE, INDIVIDUALLY, JOINTLY, SEVERALLY, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, AND THOMAS PERNA, AND ALICE PERNA, HIS WIFE, INDIVIDUALLY, JOINTLY, SEVERALLY OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, DEFENDANTS



Connor, J.s.c.

Connor

Presented here are issues of contribution and common-law indemnity arising out of the interrelationship of the Joint Tort-feasors Contribution Law, N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-1 et seq. (the so-called "Dog Bite Statute"), N.J.S.A. 4:19-16 and the Comparative Negligence Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:15-5.1 et seq.

They arise in the context of an action for personal injuries suffered by a 23-month-old victim caused by a dog bite when she was taken by her grandparents for an unannounced social visit to the home of the dog owners. Liability was asserted against the owners (Tolstow) on theories of negligence and strict liability pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:19-16. Negligent supervision was asserted against the grandparents (Perna).

Pursuant to agreement, damages were stipulated to be $65,000 without any defendant admitting liability therefor. This stipulation occurred at the close of plaintiffs' case. Because a minor plaintiff was involved, the judge treated the matter as a contingent "friendly judgment." The stipulation was approved, using the procedure outlined in R. 4:44-3.

At the close of all proofs the matter was submitted to the jury upon written interrogatories which detailed the liability issues. The jury determined as follows:

1. Is defendant Russell Tolstow liable pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:19-16?

No

Yes x

2. Is defendant Myra Tolstow liable pursuant to N.J.S.A. 4:19-16?

No

Yes x

3. Was defendant Russell Tolstow negligent?

No x

Ye ...


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