Vicious dog attacks have been in the news lately. For example, this week a Staten Island man was nearly killed by two pit bulls who were allowed to roam freely in the neighborhood. Later in the week a young child was mauled by a pit bull in Brooklyn.
A dog owner will be found liable for his dog’s viciousness only if the owner had prior “notice” of the dog’s vicious propensity. That means that the owner would be liable only if the dog attacked people prior to the attack in issue. The owner will be liable where he had “notice” of his dog’s violent propensities. In other words, if the dog has no history of prior violent attacks, the instant attack will not be actionable even if the injuries were disfiguring and serious.
This rule has often been called the “one free bite rule” in that the dog’s owner will not be held liable if the dog had no violent history. If plaintiff cannot show a prior attack or attacks, then the dog owner will not be liable on the ground that he had no reason to believe that the dog would be violent.
The courts have also ruled that a dog’s breed does not necessarily mean that it will be violent. For example, the appellate courts have ruled that the fact that a dog is a pit bull does not necessarily mean that it is violent.
The dog attack would be covered under the owner’s homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. Unfortunately, in many cases the dog owner living in a poor area will not have insurance.
In the event of the dog attack, prompt investigation is a must in order to prove that the dog had a violent history. In the event that you are the victim of a dog attack, then you should consult us immediately at 800-581-1434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark E. Seitelman, 7/5/08, www.seitelman.com