No Liability In NY For Barking Dog
In the recently decided Stack v. Manfredi the Bronx County Supreme Court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants who demonstrated that they had no knowledge of their dog’s vicious propensities. The decision resulted in a dismissal of plaintiff’s complaint, which arose from alleged personal injuries when she braced herself against the defendants’ door to prevent being bitten by their dog.
Plaintiff argued that the defendants knew or should have known of the dog’s propensities prior to the incident because both defendants testified that their dog 1) bark at unfamiliar individuals coming on to or near their property; 2) bark daily at their mail carrier; 3) the dog was territorial and sensitive to noise; 4) the dog would be at the door barking at individuals approaching the front door; and 5) the dog would not stop barking at people who entered the residence until one of the defendants told the dog “it’s okay.” Plaintiff further contended that the “Beware of Dog” sign and its breed (pitbull) were contributing factors that alerted the defendants of the dog’s propensity. Thus, making the defendant owners strictly liable in tort and negligence. Here, the plaintiff relied on Collier v Zambito, 1 NY3d 444, 446  and Bard v. Jhanke, 6 NY3d 592, 848 N.E.2d 463, 815 N.Y.S.2d 16 (2006), to demonstrate the dog’s proclivity to behave in a vicious manner
Defendants’ summary judgment motion was founded on the basis that their dog never actually bit the plaintiff nor was there any evidence that the dog had a propensity for violence. Contrary to the aggressive behavior asserted by plaintiff, defendants argued that the dog was “friendly and had never growled at, chased, bitten, or attacked anyone.” Additionally, the defendants had never received any prior complaints of the dog’s behavior. Thus, there was neither actual nor constructive notice of the dog’s vicious propensities.
In light of the defendants’ arguments above, the Court held that defendants had no actual or constructive knowledge of the dog’s alleged vicious propensity and its “normal canine behavior” did not serve as any notice to impose strict liability on the defendants. Additionally, the Court noted that the “Court of Appeals has never held that particular breeds of domestic animals are dangerous, and therefore when any breed or type of dog causes harm, its owner is charged with knowledge of vicious propensities.” In addressing plaintiff’s negligence claim, the Court held that the defendants owed no duty to the plaintiff.
Thanks to Marysa Linares for her contribution to this post. Please contact Heather Aquino with any questions.