Morrison Mahoney Associate Meredith Lasna, aided by Partner Bill Staar, recently obtained a defense verdict following a bench trial in New Hampshire District Court. 

While waiting for his son to arrive home on a school bus, the plaintiff stood at the end of his driveway with his off-leash dog. Seconds prior to the bus arriving, the dog ran across the street. The plaintiff claimed that he held up his hands and that, as a result, the dog stopped and sat down. The bus then appeared from around the corner and allegedly broke the visual contact between the plaintiff and the dog. At that point, the dog ran back across the street toward the plaintiff, and the bus hit it, resulting in a five-figure veterinarian bill. The dog lived and is fully healed.

The plaintiff alleged that the bus driver was negligent because the bus was speeding and because the driver was distracted by students on the bus. As to the first allegation, the plaintiff asserted that his experience as an airplane pilot made him particularly capable of judging a vehicle’s speed by sight alone. As to his own negligence, he denied that he violated RSA 466:30-a, which prohibits dogs from running “at large,” because the dog was under his control.

The Court ruled as follows: “The Court does not accept Plaintiff’s assertion that he had control of the dog at all times, because he clearly didn’t. If he did have control of the dog, the dog would not have left his side and run across the street and the dog would not have run out in the road and been struck. Plaintiff made the decision to walk his dog without a leash as his right under New Hampshire law. It was that decision, not the bus driver’s operation, which led to the dog being struck by the bus. The Court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to prove that the defendant was negligent. Judgment for Defendant. Case dismissed.”