Beware of God
In Bernstein v. Nossel, decided yesterday by New Jersey intermediate appellate court (Chief Judge Carmen Messano and Judges Katie Gummer and Lisa Perez-Friscia), plaintiff was bitten by Ringo, defendants’ dog, while plaintiff was visiting defendants’ house for about an hour. Plaintiff had been invited to visit by the defendants’ dogsitter, Ms. Shore, who was staying in the house at defendants’ invitation for two weeks.
Now under New Jersey’s strict liability dog bite statute, defendants wouldn’t be liable if plaintiff was a trespasser; and defendants argued that plaintiff was a trespasser for an unusual reason:
Defendants … argued … [that] based on plaintiff’s faith and his knowledge of defendants’ faith, he could not reasonably have believed he belonged in their home alone with Shore or in the upstairs bedroom…. [D]efendants asserted … that the parties and Shore were “all observant Orthodox Jews” and “Orthodox Jewish Law strictly prohibits unrelated single men and single women, like [p]laintiff and Ms. Shore, from being alone together in a secluded location, like [d]efendants’ home, unchaperoned.” [This prohibition is apparently called the law of Yichud. -EV] …
Defendants are observant Orthodox Jews. They knew of plaintiff “as part of our community” but had never spoken with him….
Shore has been a practicing Orthodox Jew for most, if not all, of her life. Shore viewed Yichud as a “very gray area” in Jewish law that allows an unrelated and unmarried man and woman to b
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