NY Court of Appeals Adheres to “Vicious Propensity” Rule for Dog-Related Injuries

In Doerr v. Goldsmith, decided by the New York Court of Appeals on June 9, 2015, the New York Court of Appeals (for non-New York readers, New York’s highest court) reversed the decision of the First Department in Doerr v. Goldsmith, 110 AD3d 453, which permitted a claim arising from a dog-related injury to continue.

Specifically, in the Doerr case, plaintiff bicyclist was injured in Central Park after colliding with defendant’s dog, who ran across the road. The First Department affirmed the denial of defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that in both cases under consideration plaintiffs could not “recover based on defendants’ purported negligence in the handling of their dogs, which were not domestic farm animals subject to an owner’s duty to prevent such animals from wandering unsupervised off the farm.”

While the main opinion is very short/terse, Judge Abdus-Salaam, Chief Judge Lippman, and Judge Fahey submitted more comprehensive concurring, dissenting, and dissenting opinions, respectively. For example, Judge Fahey would adopt as law the Restatement doctrine, namely, “that even if the owner of a domestic animal has no reason to believe the animal abnormally dangerous, the owner will still be subject to liability for harm done by the animal if he or she is negligent in failing to prevent that harm.”

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