Today I am blogging about a recent development in New York dog bite / attack injury law. By way of background, New York is one of only a few states where, to win your case, you have to prove the dog had a prior bite or attack or otherwise displayed “vicious propensities” and that the owner knew about these propensities. Otherwise, the owner of the dog is off the hook, even if the dog viciously attacks you.
This rule “bites”. The problem with this rule is that it doesn’t allow victims to sue the owner of the dog for the owner’s negligence. The owner might have a perfectly good dog with no viscous propensities, but the owner might nevertheless – through plain stupidity or negligence — cause even the Mother-Theresa-of-dogs to hurt people.
For example, in Doerr v. Goldsmith, a dog owner signaled for his nice, obedient doggy to come to him. Bad idea. The dog was on the opposite side of a very busy street. The tail-wagging, happy-go-lucky pooch then bolted across the busy street to his loving owner, causing an innocent bicyclist to be thrown from his bike.