We have been welcoming dogs, and other domestic animals, into our homes as pets for many years. However, when someone is injured as a result of a dog attack, the question becomes who should bear the responsibility for the victim’s injuries?
With some exceptions, the main question in determining liability when a dog attacks is whether the owner was on notice of the animal’s “vicious propensities.” While some disagreement among the Courts exists, “vicious propensities” has been generally defined by the Courts as a propensity to commit an act that may endanger someone’s safety. Knowledge of an animal’s vicious propensities is traditionally established by proof of a prior bite or similar act by the animal for which the owner was aware of. However, vicious propensities may also be demonstrated in certain jurisdictions by evidence that the dog would growl, snap or bare its teeth. As such, depending on what Court your case is brought, the often-referenced “one-free-bite” rule may not be the rule of law as a dog owner may be liable for a first-time attack if the dog previously displayed certain kinds of behavior that would make an owner aware of the animal’s vicious propensity. Some Courts will also examine the particular circumstances of the attack, including the victim’s age, the breed of dog and the nature of the attack.
Equally important to the liability of an owner is the liability of a landlord or property owner when an animal on their property injures a tenant, guest or visitor. The Courts have held that liability can also be imposed against an individual other than the owner if that person harbors or keeps the animal with knowledge of its vicious propensity. Generally, to hold a landlord or property owner liable for injuries caused by a dog on their property, it must be demonstrated that they knew of the dog’s presence and of its vicious propensities.
If you, a loved one or a member of your community has been injured as a result of a dog-attack, please do not hesitate to callFARELLA MASCOLO PLLC at 212-287-1277 for a free consultation.
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