People in New York have a general understanding that if they suffer an injury on private property, caused by negligence on the owner’s part, they have grounds for a lawsuit against that owner. It is even understood that a dog bite or attack also fits under a liability for the property owner, even if the dog somehow escaped from its yard. What is not so clear when it comes to premise liability is if the same statute can be applied to animals that escape and cause accidents.
A woman filed a lawsuit against property owners in North Bangor after she hit a cow that was standing on the road at night. The lawsuit claimed that the owners were negligent in allowing the cow to escape and therefore should be liable for her injuries from the accident. The New York Court of Appeals agreed with the woman, giving her the legal right to move forward with her lawsuit after it was denied by the lower courts.
The Court of Appeals wrote that a common law of negligence was applicable in the case, especially because of the condition of the property owners’ fence which was in bad shape. While the lower courts had used a more strict law of liability, generally used for aggressive animals, the high court said that there was evidence to show the owners had been negligent in a broader sense.
The decision of the Court of Appeals gives the woman the opportunity to seek compensation for the medical expenses and other damages caused by the escaped cow. This could open the way for others injured by wandering animals to hold owners financially responsible for the damage the animals caused. Anyone injured through the actions of another may want to talk with an attorney.
Source: Dairy Herd, “Wandering cows: NY’s highest court says owners can be sued for negligence,” May 2, 2013