Cammarata & De Meyer P.C.


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Dog Bite? You have options if you become dog bait.


"Joey Thumbs" was a neighborhood guy and former boxing contender. He had a Rotweiller named "Tyson" after his childhood boxing idol Iron Mike Tyson. Tyson never bit anyone before but Joey Thumbs knew Tyson would growl and show his teeth to people because he used to make jokes about it and bet against his friends on how long it would take for Tyson to act up. He would usually win on the over and under because he raised Tyson since he was a pup and knew everything about him.

James, a mail carrier was approaching "Joey Thumbs" house attempting to deliver mail when he noticed that Joe's Rottweiler "Tyson" was lying on the lawn taking in the sun, unleashed. Not taking any chances, because Tyson was known to "growl and show teeth at James from the window from time to time, James decided not to deliver the mail. He headed back to his mail truck because he wanted no trouble with the dog, he had a WWE event to attend that night and didn't want to miss it for anything. When James was about to enter his mail truck, he noticed that Tyson was charging him. Hungry because he had not yet had his lunch, Tyson took a chunk out of the rear end of James, similar to the chunk Mike Tyson took out of the ear of Evander Holyfield back in the day. Tyson never bit anyone before, but as stated above, Joey Thumbs knew Tyson used to growl and show his teeth to people because he used to make jokes about it and bet against his friends on how long it would take for Tyson to act up.

James went to the emergency room and was released that day with a few puncture marks and some swelling in his booty, but other than that was good spirits.


The issue is whether an owner of a dog is liable even if the dog never bit someone but has growled at strangers and bared their teeth on previous occasions?


Tort Law imposes strict tort liability on the keeper of a "wild animal" or a domestic animal known to be viscious. NY's highest court, the Court of Appeals, established the standard that an owner of a domesticated animal will only be liable if (1) the domesticated animal caused someone personal injury, and (2) the animal's owner knew or should have known that his or her domestic animal was viscous. Collier v. Zambito 1 N.Y. 3d at 444 (2004). the domestic animal is a dog, "vicious propensities" can be established by showing that the dog previously growled, bared its teeth, snapped at or bit someone Collier  1 N.Y. 3d at 447. This type of vicious puts the owner on notice that he or she possesses a vicious dog, and if that dog subsequently bites a third party, the owner is strictly liable for the tort. Proof of a previous attack is unnecessary where other factors are indicative of owner knowledge.


Here, it was clear that Joey Thumbs knew that Tyson had growled and bared his teeth at people in the past because he frequently bet the over and under with his friends on how long it would take Tyson to act up. Although Tyson never bit before, this satisfies the rule of being put on notice that the dog has vicious propensity and may bite someone. It was clear Thumbs had notice. In addition, Joe allowed Tyson to roam around the lawn without a leash knowing that he may act up. When James attempted to deliver the mail but walked away he became dog bait.


Therefore, Joey Thumbs would be liable for the actions of Tyson because he knew that Tyson had vicious propensities because had growled at people and bared his teeth, even though he never bit before.

***This is based on made up events, in real life Tyson was a great fun loving dog. RIP Tyson.

Call today for a consultation on a dog bite or any other personal injury claim including automobile accidents, slip and falls, and work related injuries.

Joe Cammarata Esq.      718-477-0020

Cammarata & De Meyer P.C.     1110 South Avenue, Suite 2              Staten Island, NY 10314               P. 718-477-0020                        F. 718-494-3288