On September 19, 1994 the Supreme Court, Appellate Division Second Department was faced with a request from a large, well known insurance company asking the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling entered on October 2, 1992. At that hearing, which was a bench trial with no jury in attendance, the judge ruled that the insurance company had an obligation to “defend and indemnify” the persons who were insured by the company as the complaint applies to an action to recover damages for personal injuries resulting from a dog bite case.
The Court ruled that there was no dispute about the facts of the case. The dog in question did bite a female who sought treatment at a local hospital. The insured party met with the girl and her parents at the hospital and offered to pay the victim’s medical expenses. The victim and/or her parents chose not to accept his offer. They did not, however at any time say that they would not sue him for punitive damages.
The insured man then chose not to report the incident immediately to his insurance company for coverage. Two and one half years later, when the insurance company received a summons and complaint in reference to the dog bite case; they did not feel like they should be responsible. The terms of the insurance policy state that any incident will be reported as soon as is reasonably practicable. Originally, the court ruled that since the insured party was specifically told that he would not be expected to pay for the victim’s medical bills then he would not be liable any further and so did not report the incident to the insurance company. He felt that by reporting the incident when he was summoned for a hearing was in effect notifying the company in a time frame that was both reasonable and practicable. The insurance company disagreed. The court ruled in favor of the insured person and ordered the insurance company to provide the insurance protection sought by the victim. No criminal charges were brought.
The insurance company appealed this decision because they felt that the failure on the part of the insured party to notify them until years later was not timely in the notification. They did not feel that they should have to provide the protection sought. The courts reviewed several similar precedent cases.
They found based on prior precedent cases such as Platsky v. Government Employees Ins. Co., 181 A.D.2d 764, 581 N.Y.S.2d 235), in which the insured party was told by the victim that they were not going to sue. The insured party did not report the incident to the insurance company for a period of ten months. Like this case, the insured party only reported the incident to the insurance carrier when they were served with a summons and complaint. In this case the court supported the order granting a summary judgment to the insurance company. That ruling was that the insurance company would not be liable because of the policy holder’s delay. They felt that the length of the delay was unreasonable as a matter of law. The length of time in the Platsky case was only ten months. The length of time in this case is two years.
The Platsky case injuries were not more serious than the injuries in this case. In fact, the court found that if anything the insured person’s delay in telling his insurance company was shorter and the potential for liability was weaker than those that we see in this case. In Platsky, the injured party specifically advised that they were not going to sue, which was not the case in this situation.
The majority of the Honorable Justices on the court upheld the earlier decision to find that the insurance company is not obligated to “defend and indemnify” the insurance holder with respect to the certain action to recover damages for the dog bite injuries suffered by the victim which are pending against them. The Justices determined that in this declaratory judgment action the insured party was responsible for proving that their two and one half year delay in notifying their insurance carrier of the dog bite was excusable. The court ruled that the insured party “clearly failed to meet this burden.”
The decision was upheld.
Some of the Justices did not agree. They felt that the two and a half year delay was too long to hold the insurance company liable because it was not shown that they were notified in a reasonable amount of time. Further, the dissenting Justices felt that they were not provided with all of the documents necessary to support the order.
The dissenting justices point out that the insured person was well aware of the injuries and the liability involved in the situation as demonstrated by the fact that he witnessed the incident, went with the victim to the hospital, and offered to pay the medical bills. The dissenting justices cited several cases which conflict with the holding that the insurance company is responsible for payment because the notification was timely and reasonable.
The dissenting justices pointed out that a person does not have to even be an attorney to know that a dog bite “can give rise to legal liability.” There is no evidence that the injuries to the girl were minor, rather just the opposite since she was treated in the hospital. They note that in this case, the insured person was not related to the victim or share a household with the victim which would create a situation more inclined to give rise to a lengthy time period prior to reporting the dog bite to the insurance company. More than anything else, the dissenting justices were concerned that the records that were presented to them were insufficient to support the delay. They stated that from the documents that they received, it appears that the insured person would have known that a dog bite incident would be covered under their homeowner’s insurance policy. Because of that fact, the dissenting justices do not believe that the insured person acted in a timely and reasonable manner by waiting two and one half years to report the incident to the insurance company.
The dissenting justices state that for the reasons discussed above that they would reverse the judgment and dismiss the complaint. Unfortunately, for the insurance company, the majority of the justices ruled to uphold the original ruling making the insurance company liable in spite of the delay in reporting the incident.
Here at Steven Bilkis and Associates, we provide New York Dog Bite Injury Attorneys, New York Injury Lawyers, New York Personal Injury Lawyers and New York Dog Bite Lawyers. Being attacked by a vicious dog can have devastating effects on you and your family members. New York Dog Bite Injury Attorneys will stand by you and ensure that your rights are protected. New York Personal Injury Attorneys can argue your side and make sure that you and your loved ones are considered. We make sure that you are rightfully awarded compensation for your suffering.
Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its New York Dog Bite Lawyers has convenient offices throughout the New York Metropolitan area including Corona, New York. Our New York Personal Injury Attorneys can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations. Without a New York Dog Bite Injury Attorney you could lose precious compensation to help with your medical bills and the trauma to you and your loved ones following such a frightening experience. This is true even if the Attorney for the dog owner has not adequately made its case. In addition to Personal Injury Law, Stephen Bilkis and Associates can recommend New York Criminal Lawyers who will protect your rights if you are ever arrested.