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Puppy Play Not Foul Play (NY)

July 14, 2023

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Recently, the Appellate Division, Second Department affirmed the Supreme Court’s award of summary judgment dismissing a personal injury action in which the defendant allegedly failed to keep his dog under control and, being aware of the dog’s aggressive propensity, failed to take protective measures. In<em> <a href="">Murga v. Yarusso</a></em>, plaintiff testified that while out for a walk, a dog ran into the street from the defendant’s property and knocked him to the ground. The plaintiff was not bitten by the dog, but he described the dog as acting like “a big puppy” trying to play with him. The defendant testified that he was playing catch with his dog on his front lawn when the plaintiff tripped when he caught sight of his dog. The defendant claimed that his dog did not go into the street or have contact with the plaintiff.

In moving for summary judgment, the defendant submitted evidence that the dog lacked any known vicious propensities. In opposition, the plaintiff argued that the nature of the dog was irrelevant as the defendant was negligent for playing catch with his dog and causing the dog to collide with him. The Supreme Court granted defendant’s motion and the Second Department affirmed, finding that even if the evidence supported plaintiff’s factual account, New York does not recognize a common-law cause of action for an owner’s negligent handling of a dog.

The <em>Murga</em> case is significant in that the Appellate Division refused to recognize liability for the negligent handling of a dog. The court took a commonsense approach and rejected plaintiff’s attempt to attend extend dog bite law to the facts of the case.

Please contact <a href="">John Diffley</a> with any questions.


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