The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, over a two-justice dissent, determined defendant’s motion for summary judgment in this dog-bite case should not have been granted. The dissenters argued defendant demonstrated she did not have knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities:
… [D]efendant submitted plaintiff’s deposition testimony that, while plaintiff was at defendant’s door, the dog came running and was barking, pushed the door open, and lunged at plaintiff, biting him in the right thigh. After plaintiff was on the ground, having been knocked to the bottom of the front steps, the dog bit the back of plaintiff’s left leg and then his calf. Plaintiff further testified that, immediately after the incident, defendant told plaintiff, who was wearing a winter coat at the time of the attack, that “the dog doesn’t like people who wear coats.” Plaintiff also testified that defendant told him that “the dog was protective.” Defendant further submitted the deposition testimony of defendant Jennifer McMahon, who lived in the home and was familiar with the dog, that the dog was “protective” of the persons who lived in the home and that, when a stranger was present in the house, the dog would get in front of a member of the household to protect him or her. That evidence, combined with the evidence of the unprovoked and vicious nature of the attack and the severity of the injuries sustained by plaintiff, is “sufficient to raise triable issues of fact as to whether the dog had vicious propensities and whether. . . defendant knew or should have known of them” … .
From the dissent:
… [D]efendant’s submissions in support of the motion, including the deposition testimony of defendant and the tenant, establish that the dog was a gentle, well-behaved family dog, who was not aggressive, menacing, or intimidating, was not a guard dog, and had never growled at, nipped, or bitten anyone before … . Neither defendant nor the tenant had ever observed the dog exhibit any aggressive behavior in the past. In sum, defendant established that the dog had not previously behaved in a threatening or menacing manner … .
The majority nonetheless cites evidence in defendant’s submissions that defendant and the tenant characterized the dog as protective and having a dislike of people wearing coats, but conspicuously absent from the majority’s analysis is any explanation of how these characteristics reflect a ” ‘propensity to do any act that might endanger the safety of the persons and property of others in a given situation’ ” … . Zicari v Buckley, 2023 NY Slip Op 00788, Fourth Dept 2-10-23
Practice Point: The majority in this dog-bite case held that the defendant did not demonstrate she had no knowledge of the dog’s vicious propensities. The two dissenters disagreed.