New York, unlike most other states, imposes less liability on pet owners for dog bites or when their pets otherwise harm another person. Two recent high court cases in the state have further imposed this precedent.
Owners are not liable for the actions of their pets, such as biting or knocking a person over, unless the owner knew or should have known that the animal had violent propensity. In other words, the owner knew or should have known that the animal would cause harm in the specific circumstance.
New York courts do not hold owners liable when a pet is merely unrestrained. Courts recognize that owners allow their pets to run free and take their pets for walks in neighborhood or parks, often without being leashed.
There may be no way to call or stop a pet from roaming because of their independence or failure to comply with commands, according to the courts. This differs from a case where a large farm animal, which is presumed to have the ability of causing harm because of their size.
Accordingly, a pet owner was not liable when an unrestrained Rottweilerran from the owner’s property and ran after a mail carrier. The carrier was injured while running away. Violation of the local leash law did not save the plaintiff’s lawsuit.
This month, the high court ruled that dog owners were not liable when their dog, unrestrained on a leash, ran into a bicyclist who was thrown from his bike in Manhattan’s Central Park after striking a dog running across the path.
In a second case that was issued at that time, the Court ruled that a bicyclist in Franklinville could not sue farm owners who let their two German Shepherds to stray from their property and into the road. The dogs barked at the bicyclist who struck one of the dogs about 10 seconds after they were released. The bicyclist flipped over her bike and suffered severe injuries.
In these cases, the Court held that there was no evidence that the dogs had violent tendencies. Unlike farm animals, owners can allow their pets to roam free.
Obtaining specific factual evidence in a premises liability case, such as a pet’s earlier behavior may be vital. Accordingly, prompt legal assistance should be sought to help assure that a case may be brought to trial where warranted.
Source: JUSTIA US Law, “Doerr v. Goldsmith and Dobinski v. Lockhart, 2015 NY Slip Op 04752 (June 9, 2015),” Accessed June 16, 2015