New York is unique regarding recovery from injuries from a domestic animal.
New York requires that the injured person prove that the animal had prior, violent propensities. It is of no moment if the animal’s owner were negligent.
This rule has been repeated in two recent cases from the Appellate Division, Third Department.
In Hastings v. Savue, plaintiff was injured when her car collided with a cow. The cow had wandered from defendant’s farm, and the injured plaintiff claimed that the owners were negligent in allowing the cow to wander onto an adjacent highway.
The court dismissed the case on the basis that there was no showing that the cow had vicious or abnormal propensities that caused the accident, such as a history of escape. The court noted “discomfort” with the rule, but, nonetheless it was constrained to dismiss the case based on the law.
In Bloomer v. Shauger, a distraught horse injured plaintiff. In an unusual set of facts, Whiskey’s companion horse of more than 20 years, Topper, was unable to stand and had to be put-down. Defendant put-down Topper in view of Whiskey. During the burial, Whiskey was distraught and upset. It was pacing back and forth searching for Topper. Plaintiff, a next door neighbor, heard the commotion and agreed to help. Plaintiff tried to comfort and pet Whiskey. The owner went to get a lead line. Whiskey was calming, but the owner reappeared with a lead line, and Whiskey abruptly pulled-back his head. Plaintiff’s finger was injured when it was caught in the halter.
The court dismissed the case. It noted that there is no liability for injury from a domestic animal unless the animal displayed prior, violent propensities. The court noted that there may have been negligence by the owner in allowing Whiskey to witness the death and burial of Topper, however, there still must be proof that the animal had a violent history. Whiskey’s nervousness or agitation before the accident was not evidence of prior, violent propensities. In this case, the horse’s conduct was typical for a horse.
It is noteworthy that the courts treat large, domestic farm animals in the same manner as household dogs and cats.
If you have been injured in an animal attack, please feel free to contact me for a free consultation at either 800-581-1434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark E. Seitelman, 4/16/12, www.seitelman.com.