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New York Appellate Court Determines Comparative Negligence Doctrine Should Have Been Considered, Court Orders New Trial


Every parent should take the time to educate their children on the proper way to interact with dogs that they do not know. It is never OK to approach a dog that they are not familiar with if the dog is cornered in an area that they cannot escape from. A dog can feel especially vulnerable if the dog is cornered at the end of a chain. Other factors can contribute to a dog becoming agitated. If there is a high emotional level around them, they are likely to feel threatened. A person should never yell or get rowdy in the presence of a dog that they are unfamiliar with. A frightened dog is one who is likely to bite.

Dog owners hold a particular responsibility when it comes to housing their dogs. It is generally considered a bad idea to use a chain to tie out a dog. This is because a chain does not prevent uneducated people from approaching the dog, teasing the dog, or giving the dog food items that are not healthy for it. Fencing is always a preferable alternative to housing your dog no matter what size the dog is. Interactions between dogs and people whom they are not familiar, should be closely supervised. Children need to be taught at an early age how to approach a strange dog. They need to follow the simple rules of not looking the dog directly in the eye, hold out their hand with the palm down away from the dog so that it does not look like a slap or strike it aimed at the dog, never back a dog into a corner, never take food away from a dog, never act excited around a strange dog, and never put your face up to any dog that you do not know!

Unfortunately, on July 18, 1985, a seventeen year old girl was crossing the back patio area of a neighbor to get her bicycle. As she went through the neighbor’s yard, she had to go past the neighbor’s dog who was chained in the back. She approached the dog and held her hand out for the dog to sniff and to demonstrate to the dog that she was friendly. There were several teenagers in the group of kids with the girl. One of the teens was the son of the owner of the dog. While the girl was petting the dog, the other teenagers began to shout and argue. The excitement level went up among the teenagers and the dog began to bark. The girl went down on her knees to pet the dog. When she started to stand up, the dog jumped up and bit her face. She sustained personal injuryrelated to this bite. She filed a lawsuit for the injuries that she suffered.

At trial, the jury found that the girl deserved to be awarded a monetary sum of $150,000.00 as a result of the injury that she sustained. This reasoning was due to the fact that the dog had bitten before and that the owner of the dog had placed a beware of dog sign according to him, somewhere on the premises. The sign was not located near the dog. The chain was not sufficient to protect people from being bitten by him. The court further believed that the jury should have been instructed on the comparative negligence doctrine which would have taken into account the fact that the girl had approached a strange dog at face level while an altercation involving the owner’s son was active. The dog was barking and demonstrating agitation at the time of the bite and common sense would have indicated not approaching the dog. The Supreme Court on appeal of the decision determined that a new trial needed to be conducted with that instruction and the judgment as it stands was reversed.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, New York dog bite attorneys can review your case on its own merit. We have convenient offices throughout New York and the Metropolitan area. A New York personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case to determine the right course of action for you and your family.

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