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Dogs Cats, Vets and Personal Injury Cases

by | Feb 23, 2022 | Firm News |

 

The first sentence of a court decision can sometimes tell you the Court is amused by a case.  In

a recent New York Court of Appeals case, the first sentence gives away where the Court is going.  Hewitt

  1. Palmer Veterinary Clinic, P.C.

“Defendant Palmer Veterinary Clinic treated Vanilla, a dog, for a paw injury at its clinic.”  The

Plaintiff was injured when the doctor lost control of dog in the waiting room. The dog jumped at a cat

sitting in the lap of the Plaintiff in the waiting room.  You can tell the Court was amused.

The real issue on appeal deals with old subject. Normally, to  hold a dog owner liable for

injuries, the Plaintiff must demonstrate that the dog owner knew of its  “vicious propensities.”   It is

similar to many negligence actions where a defendant will only be held responsible for defects,

conditions or problems that it knew about or in the course of business should have  known about.

The case appeal presented a novel issue. Whether the Plaintiff must prove the veterinarian who

treated the dog was aware of vicious propensities or demonstrate that this dog had such vicious

inclinations. In essence, hold the vet to the same legal standard as the dog owner.   The Court held that

An animal in a veterinary office may experience various stresses- in addition

to illness or pain…give rise to a risk of aggressive behavior.   Therefore we conclude

that Palmer (Vet) does not need the protection afforded  by the vicious propensities

requirement

 

The Court essentially is lowering the level of proof for an injured Plaintiff in a veterinary office.

Is this public policy? Is this fair?   Maybe the Court was not amused by the dog’s  disarming and

misleading name-Vanilla.

 

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