Dog Bite Case Continues; Issue of Fact Existed as to Awareness of Offending Dog’s Vicious Propensities

In Hall v. United Founders, Ltd., a dog bite case, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed a summary judgment for defendant dismissing plaintiff’s complaint.

Plaintiff sued after being attacked by a dog being dept by a construction site night watchman. Defendant United Founders, a general contractor, was constructing buildings on two adjacent properties.  It hired the night watchman and let him keep the dog at the premises.  The dog escaped and (along with another dog) attacked plaintiff on a public sidewalk near the site.

The court cited the general rule:

The owner or a party in control of premises may be held liable for injuries resulting from a dog bite that occurred off the premises if it had knowledge of the vicious propensities of the dog and had control of the premises and the capability to remove or confine the animal.

Defendant met its initial burden on summary judgment through its owner’s testimony that he “never received any complaints about the dog and was not aware of any previous incidents involving the dog, and that the dog appeared friendly and well trained when he observed it.”

Plaintiff, however, raised an issue of fact through nonparty witness testimony that “he had seen the dog bite an electrician working at the construction site approximately one month before the subject incident occurred and was present when defendant’s foreman called the owner and told him what had happened.”