Two neighbors had a common fence between their properties. The owner of one of the properties had three young children and a rambunctious dog. The owners of the adjoining property were an elderly couple who lived with their niece.
A New York Injury Lawyer said ihttps://www.1800nynylaw.com/n the year prior to the incident, the elderly lady petted the dog through the fence and called the dog “her boyfriend” because he stood up and licked people’s faces. Prior to the incident, the dog would put his forepaws on the fence and barked.
The dog also put his forepaws on people’s chests but in a friendly and non-aggressive manner. But the dog was big and some people are startled by the dog’s overly friendly behavior.
On June 4, 2008, the day of the incident, the elderly lady was gardening in her backyard when the dog jumped over the fence and headed for the lady. The lady was so startled by the dog jumping through the fence that she backed away from the dog and she fell (trip and fall). There was no dog bite nor dog attack.
The elderly lady sued her next door neighbors for damages she sustained as a result of her fall. The elderly lady contended that the dog had vicious propensities which her next door neighbor knew or should have known.
During the trial, the elderly lady asked for a directed verdict. She claimed that the defendant failed to present a case for the jury to decide. She asked the trial court judge to order a verdict even without allowing the jury to consider the evidence because there can only be one verdict. The judge reserved decision on the elderly lady’s motion.
The judge gave instructions to the jury. A Brooklyn Personal Injury Lawyer said he asked them to answer the question: did the dog have vicious propensities on June 4, 2008? Then he asked the jury to consider next that if the dog had vicious propensities, did the dog owners know about their dog’s propensities?
The jury answered that the dog had no vicious propensities on June 4, 2008. The elderly lady then asked the trial court for a directed judgment even when the jury had already rendered its verdict. The trial court denied the elderly lady’s motion for a directed judgment. She then appealed the denial of her motion for a directed verdict.
A Long Island Personal Injury Lawyer said the only issue before the Supreme Court is whether or not the plaintiff was entitled to a judgment despite the jury verdict.
The Court held that a vicious propensity is a natural inclination or usual habit of the dog to act in a way that endangers people or property. It is not necessary that the dog had bitten some other person prior to the dog attack complained of. If there is no evidence of a vicious propensity in the dog then the jury had to find for the dog owners and dismiss the complaint. But if the jury found a vicious propensity in the dog then they had to enter a verdict for the elderly lady.
The trial judge could not grant a motion for a judgment as a matter of law unless it is shown that there is no valid line of reasoning or any other permissible inference which can be reached other than the conclusion reached by the jury on the basis of the evidence presented.
The Court held that the jury reached a rational verdict which was duly supported by the evidence. The jury used its common knowledge and experience. There is no reason why the jury verdict should be disturbed as there is no showing that the jury made prejudicial errors in considering the evidence. There is no showing that the judge’s instructions to the jury were incorrect. At any rate, where there is a showing of errors of the kind enumerated here, the remedy of the judge is not to enter a directed verdict for the elderly lady but to order a new trial.
The Court resolved to uphold the jury verdict.
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