Liability for a dog bite injury is generally based on whether or not the dog owner knew, or should have known, that the dog would bite. Each state follows its own set of rules in this regard. The two main theories of liability recognized in dog bite cases are strict liability or the “one bite” rule. The New York dog bite law is a little different, in that it sort of combines these two doctrines.
New York is “mixed” liability state
New York’s dog bite law is a unique combination of the one-bite rule with a somewhat limited version of strict liability. New York’s dog bite statute makes the owner or keeper of a previously adjudicated “dangerous dog,” strictly liable only for medical and veterinary costs. However, to recover for any other types of damages, New York requires the victim to prove that the dog had the vicious tendency to bite people, and that the dog owner was aware of that propensity. in other words, New York is a “one bite state” for damages other than medical costs.
New York relies on a showing of vicious propensity
New York courts have long recognized a claim based on strict liability, when the victim can establish that the dog is vicious and that the owner knew or should have known about such vicious propensities. New York’s Supreme Court has ruled “that the owner of a domestic animal who either knows or should have known of that animal’s vicious propensities will be held liable for the harm the animal causes as a result of those propensities.”
Dog bite laws in Missouri and Arkansas
Unlike most states, Arkansas does not have a statewide dog bite statute. Instead, dog bite claims are decided based on common law, which comes from Arkansas court decisions. Most dog bite cases in Arkansas are based either on the “one bite” rule or on some theory of negligence.
Missouri has a dog bite statute, however, which imposes “strict liability.” Missouri’s strict liability rule only applies to injuries caused by dog bites. If any injury is caused by chasing or jumping, the injured person’s claims are then analyzed under a standard negligence theory.
Missouri’s comparative negligence rule
Although Missouri’s dog bite law is premised on strict liability, the dog owner can still argue that the victim was is some way responsible for the injury, as well. This doctrine is known as comparative negligence. Comparative negligence permits the court to decrease or eliminate damages based on the amount of fault that can be assigned to the victim.
Missouri follows a “pure” comparative negligence rule, which reduces damages based solely on the percentage of fault. For example, if the victim is found to be 60% responsible for the injury, the court will reduce the total damages award by 60%, leaving the injured person with a 40% award.
If you have questions regarding dog bites, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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