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Dog attacking man biting his hand

In cases arising from injuries caused by dogs and other domestic pets, New York follows a rule that is currently more restrictive than many other jurisdictions. In New York, if the animal had prior, known” vicious propensities,” an injured plaintiff may recover from its owner for damages. But, with limited exceptions, if the animal did not have such propensities, the plaintiff cannot prevail against its owner on a theory of general negligence.

In a recent case, Hewitt v. Palmer Veterinary Clinic, PC, _ N.Y.3d _, 2020 WL 6163313 (2020), the Court of Appeals considered the extent to which it is necessary to show that an animal had vicious propensities to recover from a property owner—there, a veterinary clinic—that did not own the animal. The case produced two dueling opinions, which revealed sharp differences in approach among the judges and portends significant future divisions on the Court in animal liability cases.

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