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Coogan v. Nelson

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 16, 2014

Gregory Coogan
v.
Cheryl Nelson et al

Providence County Superior Court. (PC 10-574). Associate Justice Luis Matos.

For Plaintiff: Adam J. Resmini, Esq.

For Defendants: Kathleen Wyllie, Esq.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 214

Indeglia, Justice.

The plaintiff Gregory Coogan (Coogan or plaintiff) appeals from a grant of summary judgment by the Superior Court in favor of the defendants, Cheryl Nelson and Mark Nelson, in this case arising out of a dog bite that occurred on the defendants' property. This case came before the Supreme Court for oral argument pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why this appeal should not be summarily decided. After carefully considering the written and oral submissions of the parties, we are satisfied that cause has not been shown, and we will proceed to decide the case at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court.

I

Facts and Travel

The underlying incident which has led to the instant case occurred on June 29, 2009. The plaintiff Coogan is employed as a driver for United Parcel Service (UPS).[1] Sometime in the afternoon of June 29, Coogan delivered a package to 113 Bates Trail in West Greenwich, Rhode Island, the residence of defendants, Cheryl and Mark Nelson. Although Coogan was familiar with Bates Trail from previous deliveries, he could not recall having ever previously delivered a package to this particular residence. On parking his vehicle, plaintiff stated, he beeped his horn and called out " UPS" in order to alert people that he was coming onto the property. He then made the delivery to the front door, rang the doorbell, and then walked away.

The defendant, Cheryl Nelson (Nelson),[2] stated that, upon hearing the doorbell, she opened the front door and saw plaintiff's back as he stepped off the deck onto the driveway. At the time, Nelson was accompanied by two of her dogs, a German shepherd by the name of Sammy and a rat terrier named Gizmo.

When he heard the door open, plaintiff turned around to see two dogs " charging [him]." He could hear defendant yelling

Page 215

but could not hear what she was saying over the noise of the dogs barking. Being nervous that he was going to be bitten, he tried to defend himself with a plastic device, which is used to record information about deliveries. Coogan described the device as being a " pretty hard, sturdy piece of plastic," about the size of an average laptop screen. Coogan stated that he was backing up while the dogs were circling him and that, at some point when he was in the driveway, approximately thirty yards away from his truck, he was bitten on the left forearm and the right leg. Although he was not ...


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