I just got a lucky break on a Geneva NY dog bite case. I’ll tell you about it in a minute. But first let me tell you about an article I just read about animal attack cases in the New York Law Journal, which concluded that “New York is perhaps the toughest jurisdiction in the nation to be in” for dog bite (or any animal attack) cases. Why?
There is kind of a paradox in New York. On the one hand, New York is a “strict liability” state for animal attack (including dog bite) cases. That means that you don’t even have to prove that the animal’s owner was “negligent” or careless. If the dog bit you, or the animal attacked you, and you are injured, the owner is strictly (automatically) liable, BUT ONLY IF _______ (I’ll fill in the blank later). In other words, even if the owner was very careful in, for example, tying up the dog, but some neighborhood kids let him lose as a kind of gag, and the dog then bites someone, the owner is still liable BUT ONLY IF _____. The law is generous to animal attack or dog bit victims, BUT ONLY IF _____.
OK, enough already. Only if what? Only if the owner “KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOWN OF THE ANIMAL’S VICIOUS PROPENSITIES“.
And there lies the problem for New York dog bite victims. This is easy to prove if the dog had bitten someone before it bit you, but a lot harder to prove otherwise. You can try to show knowledge of “vicious propensities” by proving the dog tended to growl, snap or bare its teeth, or that the owner tied him up, or referred to him as a “guard dog”. But even these facts might not do the trick. While there may be some neutral witnesses (e.g., the mail deliverer, neighbors) to help you prove how nasty the dog was, you are often stuck trying to prove all this alleged “viciousness” through the owner’s own testimony. And guess what; he won’t help you.
But as I said at the start, I just got lucky on a dog bite case. My client is a mail carrier. As the dog owner opened her door to get her mail, the dog charged out and bit him. The only evidence we had of vicious propensities was that the dog always growled at the mail carrier from behind the door.
But here is the lucky break: After canvassing the neighborhood, we found one neighbor who says the owner told him long ago that her mom “gifted” her the dog after the dog HAD BITTEN SOMEONE.
Other blog posts about New york dog bite cases:
Pit Bull Dog Attacks; Will Victims Get Compensation?
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