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Owner of Non-Vicious Animal Held to Negligence Standard for Injury to Child
Description Appeals court held that when a person is injured by an animal that has not shown "vicious propensities," then negligence is the standard if the animal's owner had a duty to warn or protect those who may come in contact with the non-vicious animal. In instances where the animals have shown vicious propensities, strict liability would apply.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence; Animals; Vicious Propensity
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts A four-year-old boy crawled under an electric fence around a corral at a horse farm where he and his parents were tenants. A horse walking by kicked the boy, causing severe brain damage. The parents sued the owners of the horse farm and the horse. Defendants moved for dismissal because the horse had never shown a "vicious propensity," a key in tort recovery for animal attacks. Trial court denied the request for dismissal; defendants appealed.
Decision Affirmed. When an animal has shown vicious propensity toward people, the owner is liable in strict liability for injuries suffered in an attack by the animal. However, "where an owner has no knowledge of an animal's dangerous propensities, the owner may be liable for harm done by a domestic animal if the owner 'is negligent in failing to prevent the harm.'" The issue to be determined at trial is if "defendants breached a duty owed to plaintiffs because a property owner owes an enhanced duty to ensure the safety of a young child living on the premises when he knows that something on the property poses a danger to the child."
Citation Schwartz v. Armand ERPF Estate, 688 N.Y.S.2d 55 (Sup. Ct., App. Div., N.Y., 1999)

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