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New York Appellate Court Finds Order For Defendant’s Summary Judgment Was In Error, Reverses Decision


This is an appeal case involving an order from the Supreme Court located in Columbia County. The order was made by Judge Connor and granted the motion for summary judgment made by the defendant for the complaint against him to be dismissed. The appellant in this case is Cheryl Morse. The respondents in the case are Frances Colombo, et al. The case is being heard in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Third Department, and Appellate Division. The judge overseeing the appeal is Judge Kane.

Case Background

The plaintiff had been hired by the defendant, Joseph Colombo, as a live in caretaker. The defendants allowed the plaintiff to bring her dog, Vladimir, along with her while she was living in the home of the defendant. Frances Colombo, the defendant, lived somewhere else during the week and then came home on the weekends. When she was there on the weekends she brought her dog, Cadbury, with her. The parties had an agreement that on the weekends when Cadbury was at the home the dogs would be kept apart from each other.

Not long after the plaintiff moved in, the agreement was broken as Cadbury was allowed to enter the house before the plaintiff had the chance to restrain Vladimir. Cadbury attacked Vladimir and latched onto his leg. The plaintiff tried to get the dogs separated and during this attempt she was bitten by Cadbury on the hand.

Prior to this case the defendants had moved for a summary judgment to dismiss the complaint made by the plaintiff. Their motion was granted by the Supreme Court.

Court Discussion and Decision

This court finds that the previous judgment granting a summary judgment for the defendants was in error. A dog owner is held strictly liable in cases where their dog injures someone and they know or should have known that their pet has vicious tendencies.

The defendants did meet the burden of proof to show that they did not realize that their dog had any type of vicious tendencies. However, the response from the plaintiff shows that the defendants did in fact have prior knowledge of the violent tendencies of their dog. An affidavit stated that Joseph Colombo had admitted to the fact that his dog had bitten a family member previously. The doctor of the defendant also submitted an affidavit stating that the dog had bitten someone else previously as well. Even though the affidavit provided by the doctor was vague, it raises questions to the fact that Cadbury had bitten other people and to the fact that the defendants had knowledge of the violent tendencies of their dog.

In addition to this evidence there is also the fact that the defendants took precautions to ensure that the two dogs, Vladimir and Cadbury, were kept apart when they are in the same home. The reason for this is stated that Cadbury tended to be violent towards other dogs and this was a way to avoid such a confrontation.

After careful review of the case, the court is reversing the previous order from the Supreme Court of Columbia County. The motion for summary judgment is denied and the order reversed on the law, with the associated costs.

If you have been bitten by someone’s pet, it is important to get a lawyer for representation. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates we have a team of lawyers ready to help you through your case. Contact one of our offices located in New York City to set up a time for a free consultation.

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