In New York, no matter the locality, owners of domesticated animals such as dogs are required to use reasonable care so that their animals do not roam onto public roadways, or in any way cause harm to others. Generally to prove liability for injuries caused by a domestic animal, you need to establish there was vicious propensities of the animal prior to the attack or bite. If you can establish vicious propensities, the owner is strictly liable (automatically liable) for your injuries caused by a Hudson animal attack or Hudson dog bite. This concept was explored in an important case from last year in front of the highest court in New York, the Court of Appeals.
In Hastings v. Sauve, a cow passed into the path of a motorist on a public road and a collision occurred. Hastings was injured in the collision. The cow escaped from its enclosure because a property fence was inadequately maintained. The arguments were that the animal had never displayed vicious propensities before, thus there could be no liability. But this case involved a cow and such animals are hardly known for their vicious propensities. The court had to decide if strict liability, without proof of viciousness, would apply to satisfy the negligence claim.
The rule that the trial court applied was the standard one, which is that an animal owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by the animal if the owner knew, or should have known, that the animal had vicious propensities. Vicious propensity is defined as the predisposition to do anything which causes the safety of persons and property of others to be endangered. While this guideline may apply to house pets and farm animals, the trial court did not apply it to the cow in this case, but the Court of Appeals thought differently.
Even though the cow did nothing that could have been considered vicious, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s decision and made it clear that animal owners who do nothing, or almost nothing, to prevent farm animals from wandering onto roadways may be held negligent and therefore liable for injuries caused to others. As such, Sauve and the other defendants could be held liable for Hastings’ injuries without the animal having ever exhibited vicious behavior.
Essentially, the court side-stepped the vicious propensities rule and did not apply it in this circumstance. The conduct of the cow was not something normally associated with an animal attack. Rather, the cow’s “conduct” causing the plaintiff’s injury was the defendant’s general negligence, and not from the defendant’s domestic animal’s vicious propensities. Said differently, this was not an animal attack case provoking the vicious propensity rule, but a general negligence one. Thus, the plaintiff has to prove the elements of negligence rather than be afforded the luxury of strict liability.
The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle animal attack or dog bite cases throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County. Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents. Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.