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New York Appellate Court Decides a Dog Bite Case, Finds for Defendant


A boy was invited by his friend to a sleep over at his house. He had been to his friend’s house several times before. A New York Injury Lawyer is friend had a family pet, a beagle-collie-Rottweiler mixed breed dog. The dog was excitable. He ran around a lot and barked. But he was not aggressive.

On that night that seven boys were at the house for the sleep over on December 31, 1998, one of the boys went down to the kitchen to use the bathroom. The family pet barked at him. The boy was not afraid. He went to the bathroom and he was already on his way back up to his friend’s room when he saw his friend’s mother with the dog.

Whenever there were visitors to their home, the family kept the dog fenced-in in the kitchen as he barked when he saw the guests. As the boy was going back up the stairs, his friend’s mother called him over and told him to put his hand out so the dog can smell him. The mother told him that the dog will remember that he had been to their house before. The boy was not afraid as his friend’s mother had the dog on a leash. When the boy reached out to the dog, the dog lunged at the boy and bit him. The boy sustained a head injurybecause of the dog attack.

The boy’s mother then sued the dog’s owners. At the trial, it was stipulated that the attack and dog bite was unprovoked. The parties testified that they had no knowledge that the dog had ever previously threatened or bitten any other person.

The dog’s owners moved for a summary dismissal to dismiss the complaint for damages for failure to state a cause of action. A Bronx Personal Injury Lawyer said the dog owners argued that the plaintiff failed to prove that the dog had vicious propensities. They claim that the plaintiff failed to prove that the owners knew or should have known that the dog had vicious propensities. The plaintiff argued that the dog owners knew of the vicious propensities of their dog or they would not have fenced him in. The judge found for the plaintiff and ordered the dog owners to pay damages.

On appeal, a Brooklyn Personal Injury Lawyer said the Appellate Division ruled that the plaintiff failed to raise a material issue of fact that the dog owners were aware that their dog had vicious propensities. Hence, this appeal was brought before the Supreme Court of New York.

The only issue before the Supreme Court was whether or not there is a triable material issue of fact that the dog owners had knowledge that their dog had vicious propensities.

The Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s dismissal of the complaint.

The Court ruled that the law of the state has been consistently applied that the owner of a dog who knows or should have know of his animal’s vicious propensities shall be held liable for the harm caused by the animal because of those vicious propensities.

The Court ruled that vicious propensities meant that the dog attacks and the dog bites. It had a propensity to act so as to endanger the safety of persons and property of others. The evidence that the dog owner knew of the dog’s vicious propensities is if there had been prior acts of a similar nature which was known to the owner.

Evidence that the dog had been known to growl, snap or bare its teeth is enough to show that the dog had vicious propensities. Evidence that the owner restrained the dog is also acceptable to prove vicious propensities. Even if the dog has not bitten anyone before, if it can be proved that the dog acts in a way that puts others at risk of harm is enough to prove vicious propensities.

In light of all the evidence presented, the Court held that there was no material issue of fact raised that the dog had vicious propensities that were known or should have known to the defendants.

At Stephen Bilkis and Associates, you can speak to any of their New York City Dog Bite Lawyers. You can talk to their New York Dog Bite Lawyers and they can assess if you have a viable cause of action to sue for damages consequent to a dog bite. Their NYC Dog Bite attorneys can help you present evidence and help you argue your case. Call Stephen Bilkis and Associates today, speak to any of their NY Dog Bite attorneys at any of their offices around the New York area.

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