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Court: New York biker can sue escapee-dog's owner for negligence

When you think about holding dog owners responsible for harm caused by their animals, you typically think of dog bites. While precise details vary from state to state, the rules for seeking compensation for serious injuries by someone else’s dog generally come under the category of premises liability.

The term “premises liability” simply means this: if the negligence of a property owner, landlord, property manager or tenant results in harm to others, the negligent person can be held legally responsible for any resulting injuries and expenses. Since dog attacks have traditionally been considered premises liability, they have generally been covered by homeowners insurance.

The legal responsibility of negligent dog owners for injuries caused by their dogs, however, doesn’t end when they’re out on the town, as the Appellate Division in Manhattan recently ruled. Furthermore, that responsibility isn’t limited to injuries from bites.

In 2009, a man was riding a bike along Central Park’s loop road when he came upon a man, a woman and a dog. The man was crouched over the 45-pound shepherd mix with his arm around its chest and neck. The man’s girlfriend was urgently trying to get the dog’s attention and signal it to come to her, the German man said.

Suddenly, he claims, the dog bolted out into the middle of the road. The biker yelled “Watch Your Dog!” but he wasn’t able to stop. The dog and the bike collided and the biker was thrown hard. He ended up with a broken jaw and several shattered teeth.

The biker tried to sue the dog’s owner, but the same court initially dismissed his case because there was no evidence the dog had a “vicious propensity” to misbehave, which was required if he wanted to hold the dog owner responsible.

In May, however, New York’s highest court issued a ruling in a case called Hastings v. Sauve that changed that requirement -- showing a “vicious propensity” is no longer required. Now, you only have to show that the dog owner’s negligence was responsible for your injuries.

The Appellate Division in Manhattan reconsidered the biker’s claim in light of Hastings v. Sauve and announced that he can go forward and file his claim.

Source: New York Daily News, “Central Park bicyclist injured in collision with dog can sue owners for negligence: Court,” Barbara Ross, Oct. 3, 2013

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