It is often said that New York law allows dogs one free bite. It is more accurate to state, however, that an owner will be liable for injuries caused by a domestic animal if he or she knows or should have known of the animal’s vicious propensities if the injuries resulted from those propensities. Although the courts have traditionally used the term “vicious propensities,” in Waldman v. Sangiray, the Supreme Court in Nassau County clarified that the word “vicious” might not be the most accurate term to explain the rule.
The plaintiff was 82 years old at the time of the incident. While her three-year-old grandson and she were walking around her neighborhood, the child stepped onto the defendant’s property. The plaintiff said she also stepped onto the property to pull the child from the grass. She said she did not recall hearing any barking or growling before the defendant’s Siberian Husky came up to her and “hit” her. She alleged the dog put his paws on her shoulders, knocking her to the ground. She alleged the dog “kept hitting her” when she tried to roll over. She said the dog rolled her onto her back. The incident lasted for an hour. The plaintiff said the dog bit her at one point during the encounter. She was only able to escape with the help of a passerby and the defendant’s son. The plaintiff alleged that she suffered several injuries, including cuts on her face and ruptured and lacerated tendons in her hand and wrist. The plaintiff filed suit against the dog owner, and the defendant moved for summary judgment.
The defendant generally kept the dog outside, where he was contained by an electronic fence. There was no evidence that the dog was violent or had ever bitten anyone, or even growled or bared his teeth. There was evidence, however, that the dog tended to jump on its owners to greet them. The defendant testified that he never saw the dog jump on strangers, but the dog did jump on the defendant’s in-laws. There was no evidence presented that the dog had ever knocked anyone else down.
Under New York law, “vicious propensities” includes acts “that might endanger the safety of persons and property of others…” The animal does not have to be violent or ferocious to have “vicious propensities,” if it has a proclivity to behave in ways that places people at risk of harm.
The court acknowledged that the dog in this case appeared to be “a friendly, happy dog who loved people.” It further noted, however, that the dog’s tendency to jump is a problem. The court pointed out that people train dogs not to jump on people, at least partly to prevent the dog from injuring someone. New York case law has held that owners can be liable for injuries resulting from a dog jumping on someone if the dog had a known tendency to jump on people.
The court found that the defendant could be held liable for injuries resulting from the dog’s jumping, if the jury found that the dog had a dangerous propensity for jumping. The court also found, however, that the defendant would not be liable for any injury arising from the dog biting the plaintiff, since there was no evidence it had a propensity for biting. The court therefore denied the summary judgment in part and granted it in part.
Our New York dog bite attorney understands that even seemingly friendly dogs can be dangerous. In any New York dog attack case, it is important to thoroughly investigate for evidence that the dog had vicious or dangerous propensities that could cause an injury. If you have been injured by someone else’s dog, you need a skilled New York personal injury attorney to help you seek the compensation you deserve.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
More Blog Entries:
Doerr v. Goldsmith – Dog Owners Not Liable for Bicycle Accidents, November 30, 2015, New York City Personal Injury Lawyer Blog
Photo by digitallatina at Morguefile.com